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McCarthy announces he won’t run again for speaker

House action stalled until leader can be chosen

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., walks through the Capitol after the House voted to remove him as speaker.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., walks through the Capitol after the House voted to remove him as speaker. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, hours after becoming the first speaker in history to be ousted from his job, said he will not seek the position again.

“I will not run for speaker again,” McCarthy said at a news conference Tuesday. “I’ll have the conference pick somebody else.”

A bloc of conservatives joined all House Democrats earlier in the day in a historic vote to kick him out of the speaker’s office. The California Republican appeared to bow to what one GOP member said was “reality” — that conservatives had the numbers to prevent him from regaining the post.

[Related: McCarthy becomes first speaker in history ousted]

With a narrow, five-seat majority, the GOP conference has been fractured for months, and Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz led the charge on the second “motion to vacate” ever in the House, and the first to be successful. Gaetz and other conservatives say McCarthy broke a pact he brokered with them in January, when the California Republican made a number of concessions to secure the gavel on the 15th ballot. One of those concessions was lowering the threshold to one member for being able to force a vacate vote.

In a rambling news conference that started with him recounting his biography, including a time he was turned down for a House internship, McCarthy said he had not thought about whether he would resign entirely. But he said he may endorse a successor, though he didn’t offer any potential names.

McCarthy noted that only 4 percent of his conference turned on him, and said the next speaker should change the rules so that it’s not so easy to be ousted.

“The institution fell today,” he said, arguing Democrats shared blame.

“I do not think, regardless of who the speaker is, that you should have that rule,” McCarthy said. “If you can always count on the other party to vote en bloc against it, then you’re allowing four to five people to control whatever.”

He criticized the eight Republicans who voted to oust him, noting that he worked to get some of them elected, although he also said Tennessee Rep. Tim Burchett is a friend. He had particular venom for Gaetz, who brought up the motion to vacate.

“I haven’t heard him say one true thing yet,” McCarthy said.

Tensions spilled onto the House floor during debate ahead of the vote, as GOP members jeered one another — joined by some Democrats — as they spoke for and against pushing out McCarthy. The ill will among Republicans continued bubbling over as they left their evening meeting in the Capitol basement.

The House was expected to formally adjourn Tuesday evening without floor votes on speaker candidates, with a source familiar with plans saying House Democrats would put off their conference huddle until Wednesday morning.

Multiple sources said no floor work is expected until a new speaker is elected, and no announcement has been made on when those votes would begin. What’s more, lawmakers and sources said little, if any, committee work is expected while the speaker question is resolved.

Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Calif., said leadership suggested the conference would meet Oct. 10 for a “candidate forum.” An Appropriations Committee member, Garcia said he hopes that panel will stay in Washington to continue working on spending legislation, but he added no decision has been made on that.

Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., said the forum would “allow those candidates to make their case. … And then we would hopefully — hopefully — vote on a speaker on Wednesday.”

Following the vote to declare vacant the office of the speaker, House members were advised to expect no further votes this week, according to guidance House Minority Whip Katherine M. Clark, D-Mass., sent to her members Tuesday evening.

Before talking to the media, McCarthy told a House conference about his decision.

“He just felt like he wasn’t going to negotiate with Democrats,” Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Okla., said exiting the meeting. “That he had given it all for his conference, and he was not going to negotiate with the Democrats to be speaker for the Democrats.”

Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., who is a member of the moderate Main Street Caucus, left the meeting and said the party “doesn’t have a candidate,” adding: “Frankly, one has to wonder if the House is governable at all. I wouldn’t wish this job on anyone. … I’m not sure taking Matt Gaetz’s lead is the right thing for our country to do.”

House Energy and Commerce sources said that panel’s work is likely on hold. A Ways and Means Committee markup slated for Wednesday was also canceled.

Before the conference meeting, Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., wondered “what then will change,” referring to McCarthy seeking to return to the speakership on coming floor ballots if enough conservatives are dead-set against him and all Democrats continue to vote with them?

“I can tell you right now, what we did in there today is not going to help everyday Americans that are fighting the issues that they’re fighting at the kitchen table to them, it’s just not going to be productive,” Womack said. “So let’s hope that we can find our way out of this mess here.”

The eight Republicans who joined Democrats in the 216-210 vote on a resolution to declare the office of speaker vacant were Gaetz, Good, Burchett, Andy Biggs of Arizona, Ken Buck of Colorado, Eli Crane of Arizona, Nancy Mace of South Carolina and Matt Rosendale of Montana.

“If you’re … on the yea side of that motion to vacate. I’m not really sure what it would take for them to flip to ‘no’ and to really rethink their their vote,” Womack added. “My impression is they have drawn that proverbial line. It’s a sad day for the institution.” 

Eventually, he said, the “pro-Kevin people” might have to “rally around someone else.”

Texas Rep. Troy Nehls said after the party conference that GOP members were “all told to go home now. So now, I mean, what the hell did I even fly up here for? So I guess I’m going back home. I guess I may nominate Donald J. Trump. I think that’d be the right guy to put in there.”

Niels Lesniewski, Jackie Wang and Daniel Hillburn contributed to this report.

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