Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy unexpectedly dropped his bid to Speaker of the House Thursday, a move that makes an already volatile House session all the more crazy. Leader McCarthy made the announcement as House Republicans were meeting to vote on their nominee to be the Speaker. He said that the conference needed to be united and that a new face is needed. Speaker Boehner then rose and said that the election had been re-scheduled.
McCarthy was expected to win the nomination of the conference, which only requires 124 votes to win, but face difficulty in winning the full House vote, which requires 218. The reason he was expected to face a challenge is because the House Freedom Caucus, a bloc of right-wing members, had vowed to oppose him in addition to other individual members. The House Freedom Caucus had endorsed Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL) the previous day.
The news was a major surprise to politicians and journalists. As McCarthy said to a group of journalists, “I think I shocked some of you, huh?” A common word to describe the state of the House was chaos, with it in all caps on Politico’s homepage.
McCarthy also announced that he would stay on as Majority Leader which set a whole series of campaigns into disarray. As McCarthy was jockeying for a promotion, as was Majority Whip Steve Scalise. Several Republicans were then running to replace Scalise. Now all of those campaigns have effectively ended.
Speaker Boehner has said that he will stay on longer as the Republicans look to find a new Speaker. Here, he did not actually have much of a choice as the House parliamentarian said that he could not step down as Speaker until a replacement was named.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has been floated by several people as a possible Speaker candidate. He is seen as someone who could unify the party. Ryan is well-liked by the establishment and Tea Party wings of the party. The Washington Post’s Robert Costa reported that Speaker Boehner had reached out to Ryan to see if Ryan would run. Publicly, Ryan said he would not, but he has cleared his schedule for the next two days.