US House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy drops out of race for House speaker


October 8, 2015

WASHINGTON – House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Thursday abruptly dropped out of the race to replace John Boehner as speaker, a stunning move that further complicates an already chaotic House leadership contest.

October 8, 2015

WASHINGTON – House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Thursday abruptly dropped out of the race to replace John Boehner as speaker, a stunning move that further complicates an already chaotic House leadership contest.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., leaves a meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015.

McCarthy (R-Calif.) announced his decision at a meeting of House Republicans who gathered to select their candidate for speaker ahead of the official floor vote scheduled for Oct. 29.

“We need a fresh face,” said McCarthy in post-meeting news conference, adding that he would remain as majority leader. “I don’t want making voting for speaker [on the House floor] a tough one.”

“If we’re going to be strong, we’re going to be 100 percent united…. Let’s put the conference first,” he said, with his wife at his side.

McCarthy addressed questions about whether his statement on the Select Committee on Benghazi — indicating its goal was to nick Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers — was too damaging.

“Well, that wasn’t helpful. I could have said it much better,” McCarthy admitted. He said he “should not be a distraction” from efforts by the panel find the “truth” about the 2012 attacks on two U.S. compounds in Benghazi, Libya. “That’s part of the decision as well.”

Following the meeting in which McCarthy announced he was out of the race, Rep. John Fleming (R-La.), a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus, said he was “shocked just like everyone else.” He said McCarthy “said something to the effect of, ‘I’m not the guy.'”

Fleming said the 30- to 40-member Freedom Caucus will start with a clean slate of candidates and meet possibly as early as Thursday to discuss whom to support.

Republican Study Committee chairman Bill Flores (R-Tex.) said the party needs to focus on a consensus candidate who can unify Republicans. In addition, that person needs to be someone outside the current list of senior GOP leaders, he said.

“It’s somebody who has earned the trust and respect of the big bulk of the conference,” he said. “And it’s somebody who has hopefully not burned too many bridges.”

Several Republicans leaving the meeting, including moderate Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), said it’s unclear who will emerge as the leading candidate for speaker. Boehner (R-Ohio) is slated to step down on Oct. 30, and the House floor vote is scheduled for Oct. 29.

Amid speculation that an interim speaker might be selected, Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), House Appropriations Committee chairman, said he expects Boehner to stay on until a new speaker is chosen.

Asked how this might impact high-stakes negotiations on federal spending and the debt limit, he quipped, “This is all we needed.”

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is the top choice of many GOPers to fill the speaker’s shoes. But he reiterated that he is not interested after McCarthy dropped out.

“Kevin McCarthy is best person to lead the House, and so I’m disappointed in this decision,” Ryan said in a statement. “Now it is important that we, as a Conference, take time to deliberate and seek new candidates for the speakership. While I am grateful for the encouragement I’ve received, I will not be a candidate. I continue to believe I can best serve the country and this conference as Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.”

Dent, interviewed live on CNN, said McCarthy withdrew because although he could have won a majority of the Republican Conference, he would not have had 218 votes on the House floor.

Dent said it might be necessary to form a “bipartisan coalition” with Democrats to elect the next speaker and avoid having to appease the “rejectionist wing” of his own party, which he said has made the House ungovernable by insisting on “unreasonable demands.”

Other names that were floated amid Thursday’s chaos were Rep. Trey Gowdy (S.C.) and Jim Jordan (Ohio), head of the Freedom Caucus.

There was also a wealth of buzzing amid the chaos about a letter sent by Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) on Tuesday to Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), who chairs the Republican Conference.

In the letter, Jones called for any leadership candidate who has committed “misdeeds” since joining Congress to drop out of the running. He did not specify what he was referring to.

“I’ve had the pleasure of serving the third district of North Carolina for the past 20 years in Congress,” Jones wrote.

“Some of the most difficult times have been when our Republican leaders or potential Republican leaders must step down because of skeletons in their closets. We’ve seen it with former Speaker Newt Gingrich and Rep. Bob Livingston, who ran for Speaker in 1998…. As members of the House of Representatives, we need to be able to represent the will of the people unhindered by potentially embarrassing scandals.”

The mayhem is reminiscent of the Republican game of thrones in 1998, following an especially poor showing by Republicans in the midterm elections during the impeachment debate surrounding President Bill Clinton.

Gingrich was forced to step down as speaker when Rep. Bob Livingston (R-La.), a friend, challenged him. But Livingston, too, decided against the race after questions were raised about infidelity to his wife. The move eventually paved the way for Dennis Hastert (Ill.) to assume the speakership.

Asked by a reporter if the Jones’s letter influenced his decision, McCarthy said: “Nah, nah.”

From the Democrats, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) promptly responded to the news by urging Republican leaders to quickly move legislation that would lift the government’s debt limit, which the Treasury Department estimates will be hit around Nov. 5.

“Republican chaos is likely to get worse before it gets better but the economic livelihood of the American people should not be threatened as a result of Republicans’ inability to govern,” he said in a statement.

To claim the speaker’s chair, a Republican will have to secure a majority of those present and voting in an Oct. 29 vote on the House floor. Without Democratic votes, a Republican nominee for speaker can’t afford to lose more than 29 GOP votes.

McCarthy’s hopes of uniting Republicans took a blow Wednesday when a close-knit group of hard-line conservatives, the House Freedom Caucus, said it would back a low-profile Florida lawmaker, Rep. Daniel Webster, instead.

The group said it intended to vote as a bloc in Thursday afternoon’s party election and left open the possibility that its members might unite against McCarthy on the House floor in three weeks, denying him the speakership. They didn’t even get that far.

In a statement announcing their endorsement, the Freedom Caucus suggested its position might change if “significant changes to conference leadership and process” were made, and that its numbers give the group leverage to demand those changes from the next speaker.

“He has three weeks to make systemic changes,” Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho) said of McCarthy. “Not just talk about the changes, but to show exactly what he’s going to do.”

Courtesy: Washington Post