House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy shocked the House Thursday when he suddenly dropped out of the race to replace resigning John Boehner as speaker. The House Speaker seat is now left with no immediate heir.
According to a report from The Washington Post, McCarthy made his surprise announcement at a meeting of House Republicans. Asked what lead him to the shocking decision, “We need a fresh face. I don’t want making voting for speaker [on the House floor] a tough one,” McCarthy said. “If we’re going to be strong, we’re going to be 100 percent united…. Let’s put the conference first,” McCarthy said.
His decision comes after a controversial gaffe he committed. In a television interview he hinted that the Select Committee on Benghazi was deliberately created in order to damage Hillary Clinton’s presidential run. Asked whether this was the reason, “well that wasn’t helpful. I could have said it much better,” McCarthy said.
In the wakes of McCarthy’s abrupt decision, Boehner is now compelled to stay as Speaker up until a new one has been voted. “After Leader McCarthy’s announcement, members of the House Republican Conference will not vote today for a new Speaker,” Boehner said in a statement.
“As I have said previously, I will serve as Speaker until the House votes to elect a new Speaker. We will announce the date for this election at a later date, and I’m confident we will elect a new Speaker in the coming weeks. Our conference will work together to ensure we have the strongest team possible as we continue to focus on the American people’s priorities,” he said.
According to a source who has spoken with CNN, McCarthy dropped out of the race because he does not have the number of votes to win as speaker to a lock down. “He had the votes to win the conference vote, but there just wasn’t a path to 218,” the source said.
There are no strong candidates to replace McCarthy. The conservatives endorsed Rep. Daniel Webster. The names of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan and South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy have been suggested by some but both representatives ruled out candidacy. Rep. Jason Chaffetz and Georgia Rep. Lynn Westmoreland were both considering it. Oregon Rep. Greg Walden’s name had also come out but has yet to express his willingness to run.