Updated 3:02 p.m. | House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s abrupt decision to drop out of the race to replace outgoing Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, at the GOP conference’s leadership election Thursday has members talking.
Here’s a catalog of reaction from the House GOP following the California Republican’s move. Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C. , said it was “mayhem.” McCarthy was “calm, cool and collected,” his wife was there, members were crying. He also named two people who probably could lock up 218 votes for speaker if they threw their hat in the ring: Trey Gowdy, R-S.C. and Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis. But Ryan , the Ways and Means chairman, vowed Thursday afternoon not to enter the race for speaker. “I will not be a candidate. I continue to believe I can best serve the country and this conference as Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee,” he said.
Chaffetz Still Running for Speaker After McCarthy Announcement
Sanford also said, “I was actually here for the succession of [Newt] Gingrich handing the baton to [Bob] Livingston, the baton didn’t get handed, it ended up [J. Dennis] Hastert. … I was here in those days. This is that level of confusion, change, the suspense, times 10, it’s on steroids. I mean, nobody saw the Boehner thing coming down when it came. … At least with Gingrich, Livingston, Hastert, there was some degree of prediction as to what would come next. It’s gone to the point of no one having a clue as to what’s going to come next.”
And Sanford also addressed the idea of Boehner staying on: “Mentally, I think he’s sort of crossed that Rubicon and there’s no going back.”
Rep. John Fleming, R-La. , said Boehner did not say whether his retirement date would change as a result of the postponement.
One member of the House Freedom Caucus, Dave Brat, R-Va. , said, “Pragmatically, I think we’re probably moving toward regular order. … We want a principled leader.”
Rich Nugent, R-Fla. , said McCarthy said he “couldn’t pull the conference together” so he dropped out. Nugent didn’t elaborate on what that meant, but said there were “rumors” about why McCarthy is stepping aside other than a 218 problem, including perhaps some promises he couldn’t make to the Freedom Caucus about the next leader. He said he has heard no rumors of personal problems.
“There’s an incredible amount of talent in that room,” said Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb. “We have an opportunity to be deliberate here.” He also mentioned the idea of a caretaker speaker who can carry Republicans through the next two months while the conference settles on another leader.
Joe L. Barton, R-Texas , says he thinks only McCarthy and his wife knew this was the plan, not even Boehner. He added he didn’t think McCarthy was removing himself from consideration because he didn’t have the votes: “He would have won,” Barton said, speculating he withdrew because of pressure from the conservative groups.
Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky. , said McCarthy told him personally, after making the announcement, he stepped aside because “there’s too much anger.” He said he believes McCarthy had the votes to ultimately win the speakership.
Adam Kinzinger of Illinois said there were “a lot of gasps” and it “took three minutes for the news to set in. … We’re in somewhat chaotic territory. … I don’t think it’s great for the party. … But look, we will come through stronger.”
Kinzinger said it won’t be Florida Rep. Daniel Webster or House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah. “I think it’s going to be somebody that a majority of the caucus would like. … Webster and Chaffetz are great people, but party of the reason we delayed today is because you have at least 200 people who want somebody else.” Kinzinger said he had not spoken to his Illinois colleague Peter Roskam about him running.
When reached for comment on McCarthy, Chaffetz said, “He’s a good man, and god bless him. He and I stand united, shoulder to shoulder, on the idea that we want to unite the party, and thats what we’re trying to do.”
As to timing on when the next nomination election or the final election will be held, Chaffetz said “today’s was [canceled], but I don’t know what the answer to that was. As far as I know we’re still having the election on the 29th, but I guess that’s suspect at best, so we’ll see.”
Asked what his hope was, and whether the election should still be on Oct. 29, Chaffetz said, “I don’t know. Our conference needs to come together, and whatever they decide, that’s what we’ll do.”
Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash. , said he’s surprised by the amount of chaos McCarthy’s decision has caused. “This has created some drama for people who like drama. For me, it’s just a step in the process. Was I surprised? Yes. Am I excited or upset about it? No. I just think that it’s not good for the institution.”
Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn. , said members are floating the idea of an interim caretaker speaker, and said John Kline of Minnesota and Candice S. Miller of Michigan , who are both retiring, were mentioned, but emphasized that it’s all “idle chatter” right now.
Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio , emerged from Boehner’s Capitol office shortly after 1:15 p.m. He said he had not spoken with Boehner but did speak with a few of his staffers.
Asked if he knew what the next steps would be, he said, “I just read something. I don’t know if it’s true, and I didn’t talk to the speaker in there, but I hear he will stay until there is a new speaker and we will announce a new election date here shortly and figure out where we go from here.”
Republican Study Committee Chairman Bill Flores, R-Texas , anticipates Boehner will stay on until a new speaker is elected.
During a CNN interview, former Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan floated the idea of Greg Walden of Oregon taking over as speaker, calling him “a seasoned hand.”
Walden , the current chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said he’d “be open” to running for interim speaker. The Oregonian said “there are some” urging him to get in. “I’ve made no plans.”
Boehner issued a statement saying he would stay as speaker until a new one is elected. “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.”
Budget Chairman Tom Price, R-Ga. , who was running against Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La. , for the expected vacancy at majority leader, issued a statement a couple hours after the dust had cleared.
“Now is the time for our members to come together and have an honest conversation about how we unify our Conference. The best course would be for us to select a candidate for Speaker who will serve in that capacity for the next 15 months. This would allow the House to complete the business in a responsible manner, providing ample time for everyone’s voices to be heard, leading into full leadership elections in November of 2016.”
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. , said he believes Boehner is committed to having an orderly transition and thinks it won’t be long before the speaker election is rescheduled.
“We have a lot of difficult things to deal with on the floor,” he said. “Congress needs to get this behind us and move forward as soon as possible, so I think the sooner we can go through the process again and move forward, the better.”
Asked who he thinks will run for speaker, Issa said, “I think there will be a broader field. Let’s see.”
House Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan , R-Ohio, told reporters he has no interest in running for speaker. Asked if the HFC would still support Webster for speaker, he said, “Not sure.”
Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif. , said he has always believed McCarthy and Ryan were the only two members eligible to be speaker.
“You have to run the institution. You’re third in line to the presidency and you have to do all of the things necessary for our campaign arm, so that takes somebody who’s going to be on the road 200 days a year.”
Asked if Ryan could be peer pressured into running for speaker, Nunes said, “I don’t know. I don’t know who else is out there. I don’t prefer to go the caretaker route.”
Nunes said McCarthy told him privately, ‘Look, there’s no way to meet the demands of what some people are demanding.’
“So in other words, he can’t unite 247, and we really have to have 247 members for whoever our next speaker is,” Nunes said, adding that McCarthy “just can’t meet the demands that are being asked for — immediate rule changes that the majority of the conference doesn’t support.”
McCarthy Drops Out of Race for Speaker