In 1910, the House of Representatives voted to remove Speaker of the House Joseph Cannon, an anti-progressive Republican (as opposed to the progressive Republican presidents Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft) from Illinois.
Here is Hillsdale College historian Joseph Postell:
In fact, Cannon actually called for the vote. He was the one who asked for it. That’s the big difference here is that Cannon brought the vote on himself to make the point that the people who opposed him were playing opportunistically. In that way, he actually did it as a sort of principled show of leadership, whereas, obviously, this has been more forced on to (McCarthy). So that is a significant difference.
The broad outlines of what happens in 1910:
There’s a Republican Party, internally divided between progressives and conservatives. So similar, except the lines of division today are obviously very different.
Joseph Cannon was a conservative speaker who basically thwarted the progressive wing of his party, and that wing really couldn’t move to the Democratic Party because in 1910, the Democratic Party was no more progressive than the Republican Party and, in fact, was probably less progressive. So really, all they could do was fight their party from within.
In 1910, the speaker was basically a czar. So really, the difference here, I would say, is that Cannon was a czar and McCarthy is not.
The three pillars of the speaker’s power in 1910 were the right of recognition, the ability to choose all of the chairs and members of committees, and power over the Rules Committee. The speaker doesn’t really have that kind of power today. So progressives could be completely taken out of the policy process.
George Norris, who was a progressive from Nebraska, introduces this resolution to strip the speaker of full control over the Rules Committee. And then, once that passes – it takes three days for that to actually pass – in the next year, they start to strip the other powers of the speaker as well.
So the 1910 debate, and then the vote to vacate Cannon, is really a critical turning point in the whole history of the House of Representatives. It might be the critical turning point in terms of the power of the speaker.
Read the rest at CNN.
Kevin McCarthy is only the second Speaker of the House to face a motion to vacate, but he is the first Speaker to be removed from the chair. So yes, his ousting was historic.
McCarthy, of course, brought this upon himself. His quest for power in January forced him to make compromises with the hard right-wing of his GOP caucus. Those compromises came back to bite him.
Here is Peter Wehner at The Atlantic:
McCarthy’s defeat was the result of a bitter power struggle within the GOP, and especially due to the efforts of Representative Matt Gaetz, a hard-right rebel, who forced the vote. The House is now without a speaker, and more chaos is sure to follow. The GOP still holds the House majority, but it is a deeply riven and dysfunctional party.
I consider Matt Gaetz to be a maliciously cynical lawmaker, but I can’t say I’m sorry to see McCarthy deposed. After all, he has been a key figure in transforming the GOP into a monstrous political party, one whose contempt for constitutional and democratic norms poses the greatest threat to the republic since the Civil War.
McCarthy was one of 147 Republicans who voted to overturn the 2020 election results—a vote that took place just hours after the January 6 attack on the Capitol. Privately, McCarthy said he would call for Donald Trump’s resignation—“I’ve had it with this guy,” he told other Republican leaders—but once it became clear that the Republican base wouldn’t break with the ex-president, McCarthy did an about-face. He went on bended knee to Mar-a-Lago less than two weeks after Trump incited the insurrection. McCarthy saw rehabilitating Trump as his job, and to some degree he succeeded within the GOP; since that visit, he’s done everything in his power to defend the former president. McCarthy was careful never to get crosswise of Trump, aware of what a dominant figure Trump is within the Republican Party. McCarthy has been so obeisant to Trump—a lawless, cruel, and uniquely destructive figure—that Trump once referred to him as “my Kevin.”
Among Kevin McCarthy’s legacies will be his role in reckless attacks on crucial American institutions, including the Department of Justice. Time and time again, he made unsubstantiated claims about the “weaponization” of the Justice Department. The reason was obvious; McCarthy needed to provide cover for a lawless man. McCarthy surely knew that his incendiary attacks on the Department of Justice were false, but that didn’t matter to “my Kevin.”
McCarthy also forged close ties with Marjorie Taylor Greene, a QAnon conspiracy theorist who aided him in his quest to become speaker. “I will never leave that woman,” McCarthy told a friend, according to The New York Times. “I will always take care of her.” In this case, he was true to his word.
McCarthy also did something unprecedented, campaigning in his role as speaker in a primary against a sitting incumbent in his own party, Liz Cheney, a one-time ally and member of his leadership team. Cheney’s sin? She voted to impeach Trump for inciting the attack on the Capitol; she served as vice chair of the House select committee investigating the January 6 attack; and she continued to call out Trump’s lies about the election being stolen. Cheney acted honorably, placing country above party. She put her political career at risk in order to defend the Constitution. And that was simply too much for “my Kevin.”
Last month, McCarthy announced that he was directing the House to open a formal impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, after a nine-month investigation led by House Republicans failed to turn up any clear evidence of misconduct by the president. The Republican effort, led by Representative James Comer, has been a clown show. But that didn’t matter to McCarthy; he had a MAGA script to follow, a role to play, a puppet master to dance for. Once again, Kevin McCarthy did the bidding of Trump and the anarchists and political arsonists in his party. In the end, though, no matter how hard he tried, he wasn’t revolutionary enough. When Gaetz went after McCarthy, Trump stayed neutral.
What makes McCarthy a particularly pathetic figure is that everyone knows he wasn’t (and isn’t) a MAGA true believer. He had been, up until the Trump era, a fairly mainstream Republican, not terribly ideological, shallow but well-liked among his colleagues. He excelled at fundraising. And he was ambitious. He wanted to be speaker of the House, having tried and failed in 2015. He tried again, earlier this year, and won in a historic five-day, 15-ballot floor fight, after giving major concessions to right-wing holdouts.
Read the entire piece here.
Of course the eight right-wing populists whose votes removed McCarthy–a group led by Florida congressman Matt Gaetz–are not much better than their former leader. These members of Congress have no respect for the American institution they serve. Heck, even Lauren Boebert seems to oppose what they did.
The GOP is a mess. McCarthy is out and Donald Trump appears to have supported the move. Trump and right-wingers like Gaetz are holding the party hostage. The new interim Speaker, in a petty move of revenge, kicked Nancy Pelosi out of her office space while she was in California attending the funeral of Dianne Feinstein.
Moderates, from John Boehner and Paul Ryan to Mitt Romney and Ben Sasse, are gone or on their way out. Meanwhile, most GOP primary voters are supporting Trump, a guy who, as I type this post, is in court under a gag order trying to defend himself in a business fraud case. Finally, most of Trump’s 2024 GOP rivals won’t criticize him before national audiences.
The chaos is going to continue. Ohio congressman Jim Jordan, the flame-thrower of flame-throwers, wants to be the next Speaker.
Newt is unhappy: