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Tuesday, May 17, 2022
HomeNewsPoliticsMajority Leader Kevin McCarthy Drops Bid for House Speaker, Shocking GOP Conference

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy Drops Bid for House Speaker, Shocking GOP Conference


House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is joined by Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., and Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, just after House Republicans voted to make McCarthy the new majority leader in 2014. (Photo: AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., the front-runner to replace John Boehner, stunned the Republican conference on Thursday by withdrawing from the race. The surprise decision will postpone the vote for speaker.

“It’s going to go great,” McCarthy told reporters Thursday morning in the hallways of Capitol Hill, giving no indication he would drop out.

PPD has learned that Majority Leader McCarthy told Republicans it was not his time, though he faced opposition from some conservative members and groups. Still, by our last count, he had the support of over 200 members, far and away enough to win the party’s nomination in the vote initially set for Thursday.

It’s unclear what specifically made McCarthy change his mind and drop out, but he came under fire after a Fox News interview last week where he appeared to link Hillary Clinton’s dropping poll numbers to the congressional Benghazi committee. Democrats cited the comment as proof the Benghazi select committee was political in nature, which GOP members and leaders vehemently deny.

Nevertheless, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, called the comments irresponsible and threw his hat in the ring along with Daniel Webster, R-Fla., who won a surprising amount of votes in the last vote for speaker. Webster has won over the conservative wing of the party, as the House Freedom Caucus–with its 30-40 members–decided it would unite and back him Wednesday evening. It is difficult to imagine solid conservatives throwing any support behind Chaffetz, considering the history.

Chaffetz stripped Rep. Mark Meadows of his subcommittee chairmanship after he defied party leaders on the TPP bill that gave the president fast-track authority. But Chaffetz buckled, and shortly after asking him to resign he reinstated Meadows as subcommittee chairman. Conservative talk radio host Mark Levin referred to the top three House leaders—Boehner, McCarthy and Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La.—as “Moe, Larry and Curley,” with Chaffetz being the “shrimp in there somewhere.”

Scalise, worth noting, announced he would run to replace McCarthy as majority leader and it is unclear whether that will change. However, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said McCarthy would stay on as majority leader.

“He will be the single most important endorsement for anyone who runs for speaker,” Issa said. “He very magnanimously said he couldn’t unite the conference and wasn’t the right one to lead. He was by far the only declared in the room who had the votes.”

Conservatives have accused the outgoing speaker and his leadership team of presiding over “a culture of punishment and fear” in the House. Yet, they have referred to McCarthy as open-minded and a good listener, something that cannot be said of Chaffetz. Whoever ultimately is chosen by Republicans would need to muster an absolute majority, of roughly 218 members, to win in the full floor vote, which had been set for Oct. 29 originally. House Ways and Means Chair Paul Ryan, R-Wis., released a statement following the announcement.

“Kevin McCarthy is the best person to lead the House, and so I’m disappointed in this decision,” Ryan said. “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.”

Meanwhile, perhaps in an unrelated or related decision, Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., sent a letter to House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., urging a full vetting of all leadership candidates to avoid a repeat of 1998, when the conference selected then-Rep. Bob Livingston in November to succeed outgoing House Speaker Newt Gingrich. only to learn Livingston had been having an affair.  Jones asked that any candidate who has committed “misdeeds” withdraw.

“We need to be able to say without reservation that ‘I have nothing in my background that six months from now could be exposed to the detriment of the House of Representatives,'” he said to Fox News, adding he wants to make sure the candidates have “no skeletons.”

Written by
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