Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Interim House Speaker ‘evicts’ two senior Democrats from Capitol

(BBC News) Nancy Pelosi and her long-time deputy Steny Hoyer have been ordered to leave their workspaces in the US Capitol by acting House Speaker Patrick McHenry.

Both were told locks on their office doors will be “re-keyed” on Wednesday.

The evictions come after Kevin McCarthy was ousted from the chamber’s plum post on Tuesday and McHenry, a top loyalist, was appointed in the interim.

Pelosi, who is not currently in Washington, criticized the decision as “a sharp departure from tradition.”

“With all of the important decisions that the new Republican leadership must address, which we are all eagerly awaiting, one of the first actions taken by the new Speaker Pro Tempore was to order me to immediately vacate my office in the Capitol,” she said in a Tuesday statement.

“Sadly, because I am in California to mourn the loss of and pay tribute to my dear friend Dianne Feinstein, I am unable to retrieve my belongings at this time.”

Feinstein, a California senator who served for more than three decades, died aged 90 last week. Her funeral will take place this Thursday.

While it is rare for members of Congress who are not in leadership roles to have offices in the Capitol building, Pelosi and Hoyer had so-called hideaways as former Speaker and Majority Leader.

Pelosi noted in her statement that, in line with the tradition, she had given her Republican predecessor office space while she was Speaker.

Both Democrats will, however, retain their regular workspaces in the House office buildings.

Politico, which first reported the eviction demands, said items belonging to Pelosi were being packed up on Tuesday evening with the help of staff to her successor, Hakeem Jeffries.

An email to Pelosi — sent less than two hours after the vote to remove McCarthy as Speaker — reportedly says the interim Speaker is “going to re-assign” the space to others.

It is unclear who exactly made the decision.

Neither McHenry, McCarthy, nor the Republican-led House Administration Committee, which assigns office space, has commented on the matter.

On Tuesday, McCarthy became the first-ever sitting US Speaker to be toppled by a no-confidence vote after a right-wing revolt from within his own party.

Eight rebel Republicans voted with every Democratic member in a so-called motion to vacate against the 58-year-old.

In a lengthy news conference after the vote, McCarthy said he would not run for Speaker again.

He also alleged that, when he became Speaker, Pelosi had promised to “always back [him] up” if he faced a motion to vacate.

But Pelosi was notably absent from Tuesday’s vote, leaving early ahead of Feinstein’s funeral, and her party said it would not step in to rescue McCarthy.

In the official congressional record, she announced that she would have voted to remove McCarthy if she had been present.

McHenry, 47, is a close ally to McCarthy and was a key power-broker during his nine-month speakership.

Though he has been floated as a potential permanent successor, it remains unclear when one will be appointed and who can lead a fractious and slim House Republican majority.

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