GOP in Tumult After McCarthy Exit 10/09 06:27
Jolted by political lighting for the second time in two weeks, House
Republicans are staring at turmoil and uncertainty after Majority Leader Kevin
McCarthy's astonishing decision to abandon his campaign to become the chamber's
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Jolted by political lighting for the second time in two
weeks, House Republicans are staring at turmoil and uncertainty after Majority
Leader Kevin McCarthy's astonishing decision to abandon his campaign to become
the chamber's next speaker.
GOP lawmakers, who lately have acted more like feuding relatives than a
unified party, were meeting Friday to discuss their next move. On Thursday,
Republicans munching barbecue at a closed-door meeting where they seemed ready
to coronate McCarthy as their candidate for speaker were aghast when the
Californian rose and told them he wouldn't seek the job.
Facing opposition from a band of hard-right conservatives, some McCarthy
supporters said he concluded he would have fallen short of the 218 votes needed
when the full House formally elects the speaker. Others said he could have won
but GOP lawmakers backing him would have infuriated conservative constituents
back home, jeopardizing their own careers.
"It was only going to get worse," McCarthy said in an interview published
Thursday night by The Wall Street Journal. He added, "This was for the good of
McCarthy's announcement leaves the race to succeed the departing Speaker
John Boehner wide open. The Ohio Republican delivered his own shocker on Sept.
25 when he said he would retire from Congress Oct. 30.
"Two people now have taken themselves out of the running," said Rep. Ileana
Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla. "And I hope we will have candidate who can lift up our
Boehner said he would remain in his job until a new speaker was installed,
an ironic consequence considering conservatives' desire to shove him out the
door. That election was set for Oct. 29, but its date is now uncertain.
Attempting to calm the waters, 19 Republicans including several committee
chairs wrote GOP lawmakers that they shouldn't pick a speaker until agreeing on
"a shared set of goals and governing vision that benefits the nation and our
McCarthy had two rivals for the post, Reps. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and
Daniel Webster, R-Fla. Neither had broad backing among the House's 247
Several other potential candidates surfaced. Chief among them was Rep. Paul
Ryan, R-Wis., the GOP's 2012 vice presidential pick. Boehner and McCarthy were
pressing him to seek the job.
At midday, Ryan, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, said he was
uninterested in the top post. With pressure mounting, he later declined to
flatly rule out a run.
"I think our conference will come together and unify. We'll find a way to do
it," he told reporters.
And on Friday, Rep. Darrell Issa said in a nationally broadcast interview,
"I think that I can be potentially a candidate." Appearing on MSNBC's "Morning
Joe" program, Issa said the Freedom Caucus is being unfairly accused of being
willing to shut down the government if its members don't get their way on
conservative causes such as stripping Planned Parenthood of its federal funding.
"They've been denied by the K. St., if you will, influence," said Issa of
the House conservatives, referring to capital city neighborhood where many
lobbyists are based.
The tumult was escalating as the GOP-run Congress hurtled toward showdowns
with President Barack Obama over spending and borrowing. If not resolved, those
face-offs could result in a partial government shutdown or an unprecedented
Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., believe either
scenario would severely wound GOP prospects in next year's presidential and
congressional elections. Some conservatives seem eager to use the
confrontations to dare Obama to veto GOP priorities like cutting government
spending and halting federal payments to Planned Parenthood.
After McCarthy revealed his decision to his colleagues --- lawmakers said he
did so standing beside his wife, Judy --- the five-term lawmaker told
reporters, "If we are going to be strong, we've got to be 100 percent united."
McCarthy had been strongly opposed by a band of 30 to 40 conservatives
called the House Freedom Caucus. They consider him too close to Boehner, whose
leadership team had punished some conservatives by removing them from
Underscoring the distrust buffeting the GOP, conservative Rep. Thomas
Massie, R-Ky., said he believed the leaders postponed the speaker vote because
McCarthy couldn't win.
"The question in my mind is, are these free and fair elections?" Massie
said. "If they don't have the votes next time, will they postpone it again?"
Other Republicans fired back. Moderate Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., a McCarthy
supporter, said he'd predicted that Republicans who forced Boehner's departure
"will try to frag the next guy. That's what we just saw happen."
Spotlighting the turbulence, Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Wis., became the second
lawmaker in a month to leave the Freedom Caucus. A McCarthy supporter, he said
he has "a clear idea of the qualities a leader will need" to unite Republicans.
Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., quit in September, complaining that the caucus'
tactics were hurting the GOP.
Speaking to reporters, McCarthy dismissed a suggestion that his decision was
related to a letter by conservative Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C. It said
leadership candidates should withdraw "if there are any misdeeds he has
committed since joining Congress" that would be embarrassing.
Jones said his letter was based on problems of past lawmakers including
former Rep. Bob Livingston, R-La., who abandoned a bid to become speaker after
admitting to extramarital affairs.
"I have no idea what anybody does up here after 5 o'clock," Jones told a