Biggs, Crane join Democrats in historic vote to oust McCarthy as speaker

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., shown during a visit to the border in February, just weeks after he was elected speaker by a narrow margin in a drawn-out series of votes. McCarthy became the first speaker ever removed from the post, when conservatives in his party – including two from Arizona – joined Democrats Tuesday and voted to oust him. (File photo by James Powel/Cronkite News)

WASHINGTON – Arizona Reps. Andy Biggs and Eli Crane were among the eight conservative Republicans who voted with all House Democrats Tuesday to oust Speaker Kevin McCarthy, the first time in history a sitting speaker has been removed.

The 216-210 vote could paralyze the House – it took 15 ballots for Republicans to elect McCarthy speaker earlier this year – at a time when Congress has a little more than six weeks to pass a fiscal 2024 budget or face another potential government shutdown.

“The fact that you had a united Democratic front, uniting with the furthest right members of the Republican caucus, is something that not only makes your head spin, but wonder what the political fallout is going to be,” said Jason Rose, an Arizona-based political consultant.

“Anyone who knows precisely what the political fallout is going to be, after something happens for the first time in American history, is a captain of BS,” Rose said.

The vote was the culmination of months of sparring between McCarthy, a California Republican, and members of the conservative Freedom Caucus, who have consistently pressed for their right-wing agenda and have accused the speaker of reneging on promises he made to win the post.

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Those included Biggs of Gilbert and Crane of Oro Valley, who both said before the vote that they would support the resolution to oust him.

“Speaker McCarthy has failed to demonstrate himself as an effective leader who will change the status quo,” Biggs said in a tweet Tuesday. “He has gone against many of the promises he made in January and can no longer be trusted at the helm.”

Crane tweeted that he would vote for a speaker who wants to “change the ineffective and dishonest way this town works.”

Rep. Juan Ciscomani, R-Tucson, one of the four Arizona Republicans who voted to keep McCarthy, agreed that “Washington is broken,” but said removing the speaker is not the way to fix things.

“The American people deserve better than the chaos controlling Congress right now. Speaker McCarthy’s removal is pointless, unproductive and harmful to the agenda we put forth when we were elected,” Ciscomani said in a prepared statement.

“A handful of Republicans partnered with Democrats to stop our efforts to get it done, obstructing the work we have at hand,” Ciscomani said.

Most other Arizona lawmakers did not respond to requests for comment or declined to do so. But Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Tucson, said McCarthy “never kept his word” and it was time for him to go.

“The problem Kevin had as Speaker is that no one trusted him,” Grijalva said in a statement released by his office. “Democrats will stand united in opposition to the extremist Republican agenda. This historic moment should be a turning point – we must come together to end governance by threats, and instead start governing for our communities.”

That Democrats voted as a bloc to remove McCarthy was not a surprise to Mike Noble, CEO of Phoenix-based Noble Predictive Insights.

“For Democrats to vote that way and, again, put the GOP in disarray, this is only to their political advantage,” Noble said.

Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, left, and Rep. Eli Crane, R-Oro Valley, were among the eight House Republicans who joined 208 Democrats voting to remove House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., the first time in history a speaker has been removed from the post. (File photo by Alexis Waiss/Cronkite News)

Noble said that with their slim majority in the House – Republicans hold 221 seats to Democrats’ 212 – and their recent infighting, electing a new speaker will not be an easy feat for the GOP.

“You can already tell the moderates are not happy. You know the Freedom Caucus and such have their folks that they’d like” to be the next speaker, Noble said. “I think it’s going to be an interesting process, but it’s also going to create a lot of dysfunction.”

And troubles for Republicans in the House could extend beyond the selection of the next speaker and into the 2024 elections, when the GOP will be trying to hold on to its majority, said Sean Noble, political consultant for Compass Strategies.

“The Republican members who voted to remove McCarthy without any plan of how to move forward makes them look like toddlers throwing a temper tantrum,” Sean Noble said, “not the adults who are supposed to govern.”

Renee Romo(she/her/hers)
News Broadcast Reporter, Washington, D.C.

Renee Romo plans to graduate in December 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in political science. Romo is a White House Correspondents’ Association Scholar, who has interned with Arizona Education News Service. Romo also writes for PolitiFact.

Alexandria Cullen ah-le-xan-dree-ah cul-len (she/her/hers)
News Broadcast Reporter, Washington, D.C.

Alexandria Cullen expects to graduate in December 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communication. Cullen has interned as a reporter at Ability360 and was news director and a reporter for CTV at Colorado State University.