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Kevin McCarthy is out as speaker of the House. No one knows for sure what comes next.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House of Representatives is entering uncharted territory after a far-right effort to remove fellow Republican Kevin McCarthy from the speakership succeeded thanks to support from Democrats.

A resolution — titled a motion to vacate — from Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla. passed Tuesday with the support of eight Republicans and all the Democrats present and voting. The vote made McCarthy the first speaker in history to be removed from office, a bitter humiliation that comes after less than nine months in the job.

It was a stunning outcome in the House that shocked lawmakers of both parties and left them wondering what the future will bring.

Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry, who is now the acting speaker, declared the House in recess until both parties can decide on a path forward. There is no obvious successor to lead the House Republican majority, should McCarthy opt not to run for the job again.

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Here’s a closer look at what could happen next:


Immediately after the vote, McHenry, a close McCarthy ally, was named temporary speaker or speaker pro tempore. The North Carolina Republican was picked from a list that the speaker is required to keep of members who can serve in this position in the event a chair is vacated.

McCarthy turned over that private list to the House clerk in January when he was first elected speaker. And while McHenry can serve in the temporary role indefinitely, he does not have the full power of a duly elected speaker but only those that are deemed “necessary and appropriate” for the purpose of electing someone to the job, according to the rules governing the House.

McHenry will be unable to bring legislation to the floor or take it off. He also does not have the power to issue subpoenas or sign off on any other official House business that would require the approval of the speaker.


The first order of business for McHenry would be to hold an election for a new speaker.

As of now, it is unclear who House Republicans will nominate for the speakership. Some members left the chamber Tuesday determined to renominate McCarthy and vote for him for speaker until it passes.

Republican Rep. Brian Babin of Texas said he has “no idea” whether McCarthy will make another run at the gavel. “Does he want to subject himself to this again?” he asked.

Other Republicans are broaching potential consensus candidates like Majority Leader Steve Scalise or Whip Tom Emmer who they see as potentially bringing the conference together.

Once Republicans decide who to nominate for speaker, the House would have to vote as many times as it takes for a candidate to receive the majority of those present and voting for speaker. It can quickly becoming an arduous exercise, as it did in January when it took McCarthy an unprecedented 15 rounds to win the gavel.


Once a speaker candidate has won a majority of the vote, the clerk will announce the results of the election.

During a normal speaker election, which takes place at the start of each Congress, a bipartisan committee, usually consisting of members from the home state of the chosen candidate, will then escort the speaker-elect to the chair on the dais where the oath of office is administered. The oath is identical to the one new members will take once a speaker is chosen.

It is unclear if that is the same process that will be followed in this instance. It is customary for the minority leader to join the successor at the speaker’s chair, where they will pass the gavel as a nod to the potential future working relationship between one party leader and another.


AP Congressional Correspondent Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.

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