Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) has announced that he will run for the Speaker of the House. He will be a major challenger to Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who previously was thought to have an easy path to the Speakership.
Chaffetz, who serves as Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, announced his run on Fox News Sunday. Chaffetz acknowledges that McCarthy, who announced his run several days ago, has the support of a majority of the Republican House conference, but he says that McCarthy does not have enough support to be elected Speaker by the full chamber. In the full House vote, McCarthy would need 218 votes and there are 247 Republicans. However, Chaffetz says that more than fifty Republicans will not support McCarthy on the floor, preventing him from winning.
Technically, Democrats could vote to support McCarthy, but that is highly unlikely as Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi has been calling on Democrats to vote for her in the Speaker election. When there was the threat of a motion to vacate the chair to remove Speaker Boehner, there were rumors that Democrats would vote in support of him. However, that scenario is different as it would have been an up or down vote on Boehner, rather than an election. In addition, Boehner and Pelosi did have a working relationship. If McCarthy were to win the Speakership with Democratic votes, it could start his Speakership on a poor beginning as Speaker Boehner’s occasional reliance on Democratic votes led to increased party infighting and attacks on him.
Chaffetz, who was elected in 2008, is described himself as a change candidate. “You don’t just give automatic promotion to the existing leadership team,” he said. “That doesn’t signal change. I think they want a fresh face and a fresh, new person who’s actually there at the leadership table in the Speaker’s role.”
Chaffetz is known for his communications skills. He frequently appears on cable news and was the subject of a CNN online series during his freshman year of Congress. Cable news is where Leader McCarthy got himself in trouble as he said that the Benghazi hearings were started to bring down Hillary Clinton and her campaign. Those remarks were sharply criticized by Chaffetz.