The search for House speaker is underway after Republican Kevin McCarthy was unexpectedly ousted by a right-wing revolt within the party.
Republicans control the House, but the majority is very narrow.
So when eight rebels joined Democrats on Tuesday night, a final vote of 216-210 sealed his fate.
This is the first time that the Speaker of the House of Representatives, one of the highest positions in American politics, has been removed in this way.
Why was Kevin McCarthy fired?
The revolt was led by Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz after Mr. McCarthy relied on Democratic votes to pass a short-term spending deal on Saturday to avert a government shutdown.
Over the weekend, Gaetz accused President Biden of making a “backroom deal” on aid to Ukraine.
But in reality, it was the final straw in a bitter feud that had been smoldering all year between the chairman and the right-wing factions within the party.
They tried to block his election to the post in January, saying they could not trust him to enact conservative principles.
In their view, he proved that by striking a deal with Democrats in June that raised the debt ceiling without making the deep cuts they had hoped for.
Now they are the ones being accused of treason — some Republicans are openly talking about ousting Gaetz.
What will happen to McCarthy’s successor?
The House of Commons is in recess for a week, during which time MPs will debate who to support in the upcoming vote to elect a new speaker.
It is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 11, but it could take days or weeks to find someone who has the support of a majority of the House.
Kevin McCarthy took 15 votes over four days to be finally elected.
Given the discord within the party over his removal, it is difficult to imagine anyone capable of uniting warring factions.
Who could replace Mr. McCarthy as a speaker?
At the top of McCarthy’s secret list of interim leaders when he took office is Patrick McHenry of North Carolina State.
He does not have the power to run the chamber, but he “may exercise such powers of the office of Speaker as he deems necessary and appropriate, pending the election of a Speaker,” according to House rules.
If that happens, it would be impossible to submit the bill.
Other names mentioned include Steve Scalise, Joe Jordan, and Tom Emmer. Mr. McCarthy ruled out running again.
Why did Democrats vote to fire McCarthy?
While some Democrats appeared to be relishing the chaos caused by the speaker’s removal, there was also a list of grievances that weighed against him in gaining support.
“No one trusts Kevin McCarthy,” liberal Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal said Tuesday morning after a meeting with party members.
They felt betrayed by McCarthy’s U-turn in the days after the Capitol attack, when he first condemned and then supported Donald Trump’s role there.
As speaker, his attempts to placate the right have infuriated Democrats, the latest example of which was the abandonment of Ukraine aid in a short-term funding bill.
Why is it important?
The Speaker of the House runs the chamber and is second-in-command to the presidency. There has been a vacuum at the top of the US government for at least a week.
The House also has important issues to deal with in the coming weeks. These include agreeing on an annual budget to avoid a government shutdown, deciding on aid to Ukraine, and how to proceed with the impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden.
A more serious impact is reputational.
Polls suggest that trust in government has been declining among Americans for some time.
The turmoil may further solidify that sentiment, reinforcing the sense that America’s political system is not working.