Kevin McCarthy withdraws from U.S. House speaker race, lifting chances for Florida's Dan Webster
Can you say chaos?
In a dramatic move Thursday, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California dropped out of the race for House speaker and the election has been postponed, throwing the chamber into disarray.
The majority leader leveled the news as the GOP conference went into a noon meeting. Conservative opposition was rising against him, illustrating once again the power of a group that has made life exceedingly difficult for soon-to-be former Speaker John Boehner.
"It's stunning, but not too surprising," said Rep. David Jolly, R-Indian Shores, who had planned to nominate Rep. Dan Webster of Florida for the post. McCarthy "recognized that he was not the person capable of uniting us. He said he did not want to be somebody that furthur divided the party," Jolly said.
McCarthy later told reporters "we need a new face." He was expected to win the vote Thursday but meet a tougher battle when the entire House voted Oct. 29.
Some conservatives have rallied around Webster -- the same group that helped end Boehner's career -- but it's still unclear if the low-key legislator from Winter Garden can mount a winning campaign.
In the aftermath, Webster played down his chances, saying the dynamic had changed. Asked by a reporter if he liked playing the underdog, Webster replied, "No, I'd like to be the favorite."
Webster, who served as speaker of the Florida House, has pledged to return power to individual members and give fair hearing to bills and amendments, somethng rank-and-file members said was not happening under Boehner.
"Power doesn't like to give up its power, and so that's why many of us have gotten behind Mr. Webster," Rep. John Fleming of Louisiana, a Freedom Caucus member, told reporters outside Thursday's meeting. "We feel that conservatives have been greatly marginalized by the current leadership."
Rep. Paul Ryan, widely respected in the House, said Thursday that he will not seek the post. Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, the third candidate heading into Thursday’s GOP voting, said he was still seeking the post.
“I want to take that fight to the president,” he said, echoing what others said about McCarthy’s exit:
“It was absolutely stunning.”
Boehner said he would stay on until a new speaker is selected. "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," he said. "Our conference will work together to ensure we have the strongest team possible as we continue to focus on the American people’s priorities.”
The fight for speaker is now wide open. Jolly, speaking with the Tampa Bay Times, said Webster's experience in the Florida Legislature gives him an edge. "He is somebody who actually believes in achieving results through governing."