Washington Special for News Talk Florida – House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has dropped out of elections for House Speaker, in a stunning announcement that rocked Capitol Hill this morning. It now raises questions about who can possibly lead the House Republican conference.
Republicans were to meet Thursday at noon to elect a new Speaker. Instead, they received the surprising news from McCarthy. McCarthy was having trouble convincing conservatives that he would or for that matter could advance their causes.
Despite his rift with the conservatives in Congress he was far and away the favorite to win the closed-door vote, he did not have the votes on the floor to win election. But that was seen as something he could win over time.
But it was his verbal gaff last week when McCarthy in a Fox News interview said that the House committee investigating Benghazi had the political aim of damaging Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign. The gaff left many wondering if he would be fit to serve as the Speaker.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.), the fourth-ranking GOP member, banged the gavel and dismissed the GOP conference after McCarthy dropped his bombshell behind closed doors.
At this point the battle could fall to two Republicans who were felt to be trailing McCarthy by miles and considered long shots at best. Congressmen Daniel Webster (Fla.) and Jason Chaffetz (Utah) both threw their names into the hat to challenge McCarthy for the Speakership but did not appear to have the votes to win.
The move today could put Representative Webster, from the Orlando area, who is a little-known lawmaker in line for the third most important job in politics.
Webster won key backing from major conservative groups including the House Freedom Caucus and Rep. Steve King (R-IA) who is the chairman of the Conservative Opportunity Society. The two Tea Party factions were strong supporters of Webster and openly endorsed him over McCarthy.
.Webster told the media last night that “My whole deal is I want to have a principle-based, member-driven caucus,” Mr. Webster said in an interview, standing just outside the House chamber. “That’s all I want to do.”
Webster’s call for a more open legislative process that would make it easier for rank-and-file lawmakers to put bills and amendments on the House floor is precisely the sort of change sought by the conservatives who pushed for the resignation of Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio.
Meanwhile, the last minute push for Chaffetz who is darling of the Tea Party seems to at least for now still be in the race.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced his resignation as Speaker two weeks ago. He is set to leave at the end of the month, but Thursday’s developments raise questions over whether he can keep to that schedule.