Not long after the House voted to oust him as Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy gave remarks to the press on Tuesday night, during which he confirmed he was not running for speaker again, though he still sought to keep an air of optimism about him and his hopes for the country.
McCarthy started off with positive reflections about his life, which included mention of his business, how he was the grandson of immigrants, the first in his family to get a college degree, and how he even ended up being elected to the seat where he once couldn’t even get an internship.
Nevertheless, McCarthy still had sharp words for the eight Republican members who joined with all Democrats to oust him, highlighting how such a small percentage voted against him, even when he had 94 or 96 percent of his conference on his side.
At many points throughout his remarks, McCarthy accused those eight members of not being “conservatives” and declared they “do not have a right to that title.”
McCarthy spoke about how the importance of compromise, which has been necessary with not only a slim majority in the House, but Democrats controlling the Senate and the White House. “But if they want to hold me liable because the Senate didn’t take it, or the president to take it up,” McCarthy said about bills passed by the House, “that’s politics.”
“Doing the right thing isn’t always easy, but it is necessary,” McCarthy pointed out, offering how he was also “proud of what we accomplished,” especially and including how they opened the People’s House back up. “My goals have not changed, it’s just in a different context,” McCarthy shared early on.
.@SpeakerMcCarthy: “If they want to hold me liable b/c the Senate or the President didn’t take it up, that’s politics, for what I know…It was my greatest honor to able to [be Speaker]…I intend to make sure we gain & move forward in the next cycle.” pic.twitter.com/f8Pxc7xHZv
— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) October 3, 2023
It looks like McCarthy plans to stay in the House, as he also emphasized that he plans to fight for Republican priorities and help his party. Still, this came back to his criticisms for those eight Republicans who voted to oust him, especially as McCarthy emphasized they voted with Democrats.
“Why would you enable and allow the Democrats to” remove him as speaker, McCarthy wondered.
McCarthy also came out against the rule used to oust him as not good for the institution. “In today’s world, if you’re sitting in Congress, and you took a gamble to make sure government was still open and eight people can throw you out a speaker and the Democrats who said they wanted to keep government open. I think you’ve got a real divide. I think you’ve got a real institutional problem,” he said.
Democrats were the subject of some of McCarthy’s discontent as well, though, though he also continued to criticize those eight Republicans in the same breadth.
“I think today was a political decision by the Democrats. And I think I think the things they haven’t done in the past hurt institutions. They just started removing people from committees,” McCarthy said, in reference to how Reps. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) had been removed from their committee assignments under the Democratic-controlled 117th Congress.
“My fear is the institution fell today because you can’t do the job if eight people–you have 94 percent or 96 percent of your entire conference–but eight people can partner with the whole other side. How do you govern? And for them to make a motion on me because I made a decision for the country that they agreed with, but they choose to do the other, that becomes a problem,” he added.
Although it is such a small part of the conference, it is those eight members who caused chaos, McCarthy said throughout.
Speaking to how Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) not only brought the motion on Monday night, but had previously claimed they would never use this tactic against him, McCarthy once again criticized the rule. “If you could always count on the other party to vote in the block against it, then you’re allowing four to five people to control whatever so it doesn’t matter even if you have 96 percent,” McCarthy said about the use of the rule. “So that is not a government, that is chaotic.”
McCarthy made this charge again later in the press briefing, when again declaring that the eight members “are not conservatives.”
“They voted against one of the greatest cut in history that Congress has ever voted for, they voted against work requirements, they voted against NEPA reform, they voted against border security. They don’t get to say they’re conservative because they’re angry, and they’re chaotic. That’s not the party I belong to. The Party of Reagan was if you believed in your principles, that you could govern in a conservative way. They are not conservatives and they do not have the right to have the title.”
.@SpeakerMcCarthy on the 8 who voted to oust him: “They are not conservatives. They voted against, one, the greatest cut in history…They voted against work requirements…nipah reform…border security. They don’t get to say they’re conservative b/c they’re angry and…chaotic” pic.twitter.com/kJVfPYKX8p
— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) October 4, 2023
The former speaker was just as clear, though, that this is not reflective of the Republican Party. In taking a question, McCarthy pointed out “I don’t think it says [anything] about the Republican Party, I think it says something about people who are not a conservative. I mean, if you were conservative, and you only had one entity making the battle and you vote against securing the border, you vote against cutting wasteful spending, and then you partner with all the Democrats. Now you will phrase it all the other different ways. That’s not a conservative.
McCarthy called out Gaetz by name at length, as well as Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-MT), who had said he prayed for a small majority, and Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC), referring to the situation with her as “a whole other story” to laughter from the press.
“Look, you will know Matt Gaetz, you know it was personal. That had nothing to do about had nothing to do about everything he accused somebody of he was doing. It all was about getting attention from you. I mean we’re getting email fundraisers from him as he’s doing it, join in quickly. hat’s not becoming of a member of Congress. And regardless of what you think, I’ve seen the texts it was all about his ethics. But that’s all right,” McCarthy went on to say.
The members voting to oust McCarthy included Gaetz, Rosendale, Mace, as well as Reps. Andy Biggs and Eli Crane of Arizona, Ken Buck of Colorado, Tim Burchett of Tennessee, and Bob Good of Virginia.
A continuing resolution (CR) passed on Saturday, and the shutdown was averted. McCarthy has reaffirmed the importance of doing that. Early on in his remarks, he referred to how he “took a risk for the American public.”
McCarthy also acknowledged “you know if you have to lose for something I will always lose for the country,” also later adding “if I lose my job over doing what I truly believe what’s right, I’m very at peace with it.”
When it comes to funding, McCarthy made clear that he supports Ukraine, but that he sees the crisis at the southern border as a bigger issue, especially since “more Americans are dying on the southern border than are dying in Ukraine,” especially from fentanyl. “And I don’t understand how the White House continues to ignore it,” McCarthy wondered. “My whole plan, and I’ve been upfront from the very beginning I would say, if you want anything on Ukraine, you’ve got to do something with the border.”
McCarthy acknowledged they House Democrats are looking to retake the majority in 2024. McCarthy, however, is still looking to defend the majority, even though he’s no longer the speaker, as he doesn’t have to be the speaker to do what he wants to do for the American people.
Although McCarthy lost the speakership today, he reminded how he had defied expectations in many ways before, which included not just on the debt ceiling and the CR, but McCarthy mentioning “we won in places no one thought we could win,” including House races in McCarthy’s state of California and in New York. Now that he’s no longer the speaker, but rather is “a free agent,” McCarthy can get even more involved in primary races, which may include those races for the eight he voted to oust him.
“I’ll continue to help in any way possible,” McCarthy reminded towards the end of the press conference.
As for who’s next, we know it won’t be McCarthy. Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry (R-NC) has indicated a vote won’t take place until over a week away, next Wednesday. McCarthy doesn’t know who is running, though he “might” name a successor and “will talk to people.”
I will not seek to run again for Speaker of the House. I may have lost a vote today, but I fought for what I believe in—and I believe in America. It has been an honor to serve. https://t.co/4EMpOuwtzy
— Kevin McCarthy (@SpeakerMcCarthy) October 3, 2023