Reps. Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden of Maine were part of a united Democratic House caucus that joined a handful of conservative Republicans in a historic vote Tuesday to oust House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

Maine Democratic Reps. Jared Golden and Chellie Pingree

The 216-210 vote in favor of a motion to vacate brought by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, followed a chaotic afternoon of debate in the House chamber.  McCarthy is the first speaker in history to be removed from office, a stunning setback that came after less than nine months in the post.

Both Pingree and Golden criticized McCarthy’s leadership in prepared statements Tuesday. Pingree blamed McCarthy for setting the stage for Tuesday’s chaos by giving Gaetz the power to force a removal vote in exchange for support McCarthy needed to win the speaker’s job in January.

“Kevin McCarthy was so desperate to grasp the gavel that he sold out our institution, allowing just one person to bring the People’s House to a grinding halt,” Pingree, who represents Maine’s 1st District, said in a prepared statement. “Willfully upending our Democratic norms to seize power has turned this great populist chamber into a place where a single tyrant can rule.”

Golden, in a statement before Tuesday’s vote, said McCarthy had lost his trust and he didn’t see any reason to support him.

“The GOP has control of the House and it is their responsibility to pick their leaders,” he said. “That decision has nothing to do with me or with any Democrat. But in the interest of answering inquiries to my office about whether or not I would support Kevin McCarthy: he’s not the leader I would choose – he doesn’t have the pulse of the people of Maine’s 2nd District.”


Among the reasons Golden cited for not backing McCarthy were his support of the United States-Mexico-Canada trade deal, his opposition to a six-year freeze on right whale regulations that have impacted Maine fisherman, his inaction on legislation that would ban members of Congress from trading stocks and his vote against the bipartisan infrastructure law.

It was seen as bad news for McCarthy when Golden, who is often among the first Democrats willing to vote against his party, came out against him. McCarthy had said earlier Tuesday that he would not make any deals to save his job.

Following McCarthy’s ouster, Rep. Patrick T. McHenry, R-North Carolina, was appointed speaker pro-tempore to preside over the chamber until a new speaker is elected.

There is still the possibility that McCarthy could be reelected given that an overwhelming majority of Republicans still support him, but numerous outlets reported that he had decided to not seek reelection.

Tuesday’s motion to vacate by Gaetz was possible only because of provision that passed in January, before McCarthy was finally elected as speaker on the 15th vote. It was a rule change that allows just a single member to call for a motion to vacate.

Conservative House members have used that as a veiled threat for months, including during last week’s near shutdown over budget deliberations. McCarthy eventually worked with Democrats to come up with a 45-day continuing resolution to avoid a shutdown.



But by doing so, he may have lost his leadership position.

Sen. Susan Collins, Maine’s senior senator and the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said in an interview Tuesday before the House vote that she’s weary of the political climate in Washington at the moment.

“The House has certainly been chaotic since the beginning of the year, despite Speaker McCarthy’s attempt to bring calm and progress to the chamber,” she said, adding that the speaker did the right thing last week. “He worked across the aisle to assemble the votes, and it included a majority of Republicans, to prevent what would have been an extraordinarily harmful government shutdown.

“Shutdowns always end up costing taxpayers more money. We have only to look at the experience in 2013 and 2018-19 to see what happened. Shutdowns are never good policy and I believe the speaker made the right call last week in averting a shutdown and I hope that he is able to retain his position.”

Sen. Angus King, in an interview just after McCarthy was voted out of the speaker position, was similarly frustrated.

“It’s very frustrating because it has nothing to do with governing,” he said. “The people angling for a shutdown had no real strategy or goal. It seemed to change daily. It was chaos for chaos’ sake, rather than to achieve a policy end.”

Collins and King both said the Senate has been doing its work in bipartisan and collegial fashion.

“We have been getting a lot done,” King said. “And it’s frustrating that a relatively small group in the House is more interested in being on the news.”

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