'I cannot believe it's come to this': Suburban lawmakers weigh in on McCarthy's ouster

Reactions to the unprecedented ouster of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy from Illinois lawmakers Tuesday ranged from "good riddance" to "shameful" to disbelief at political dysfunction in Washington.

Conservative GOP foes of McCarthy, who was elected in January after a bruising fight, joined Democrats in a 216-210 vote that leaves a major power vacuum in Congress.

Naperville Democratic U.S. Rep. Bill Foster had a ringside seat in front of the revolt leader, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, who was on his feet frequently giving fiery rebuttals to fellow Republicans' speeches.

The atmosphere was "very serious," said Foster, who represents the 11th District. "People understood the importance of the undertaking."

But another vibe was more of an "'I cannot believe it's come to this,'" Foster explained.

Electing a speaker is typically "a decision that's made once every two years. Are we now really going to be living in a situation where every two weeks Matt Gaetz comes up and says, 'I don't like this speaker?'"

It could have been avoided, Foster said, if McCarthy and Republicans had chosen to negotiate a power-sharing agreement with Democrats. But McCarthy never reached out to Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, choosing instead to roll the dice that the members of his party wouldn't dump him.

"I don't think he read his caucus properly," Foster said.

U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Schaumburg characterized McCarthy's departure as "a stunning turn of events. It's shocking that a group of these hard-right, extreme House Freedom Caucus members went after him.

"And why? Because he was, for instance, working with Democrats to pass a clean continuing resolution on Saturday to help keep the government open," said Krishnamoorthi, a Democrat who represents the 8th District.

With McCarthy out of the picture, "God help whoever is seeking to be speaker and leader of that caucus because you have these factions that are in a Civil War with each other. And sometimes their differences amount to just personality conflicts," Krishnamoorthi said.

Democrats collaborated with McCarthy last weekend to avoid a government shutdown, and that's what led to Tuesday's showdown. But local Democrats have no regrets about his departure.

"I believe two things to be true: First, the only way anything can become law in a divided Congress is with bipartisan collaboration," 10th District U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider of Highland Park said in a statement. "Second, Kevin McCarthy's speakership failed because he sought to placate the duplicitous extremists in his party rather than seeking common ground with Democrats who repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to work together."

Hours before the vote, U.S. Rep. Sean Casten of Downers Grove insisted he wouldn't support anyone for speaker who voted to overturn the 2020 presidential election or who "chose to put extremists in control of the House agenda."

"There is not a single member of the House Republican conference who passes those tests," said Casten, who represents the 6th District.

Just after the vote, U.S. Rep. Delia Ramirez, a first-term Democrat from Chicago whose 3rd District includes some of the Western suburbs, posted a short video clip on social media featuring late-night TV host Seth Myers waving and saying, "OK, goodbye."

"Today's action was a consequence of Congressman McCarthy's repeated history of breached trust, compromised integrity, extremism indulged, and chaos stoked," Ramirez said later in a statement.

Evanston Rep. Jan Schakowsky, who represents the 9th District, said in a statement that "it took 15 rounds of voting for Kevin McCarthy to win the speakership, and what did he do immediately after winning? Hand the gavel over to the far-right extremists in his party."

U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley, a Chicago Democrat whose 5th District stretches from Chicago's Near North Side to the Barrington area, said McCarthy has spent months "seeking to placate the most extreme members of his party." The American people deserve better, Quigley said.

Meanwhile, downstate 16th District Republican U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood of Peoria said in a statement that "using the motion to vacate to remove Speaker McCarthy with a majority of Democrat votes is a shameful maneuver that does a disservice to the American people and hinders the key conservative priorities that voters put a Republican majority in the House to advance."

McCarthy's last-ditch plan to keep the government open collapses, making a shutdown almost certain

Government shutdown averted with little time to spare

Rep. Matt Gaetz is threatening to oust Speaker Kevin McCarthy. It won't be easy

McCarthy becomes the first speaker ever to be ousted from the job in a House vote

Sean Casten
Brad Schneider
Delia Ramirez
Raja Krishnamoorthi
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