The race to replace John Boehner has become much more open as Majority Leader, Kevin McCarthy pulled out, “Thirty minutes beforehand, John A. Boehner had no idea. About 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, just before House Republicans were scheduled to choose his successor, the House speaker sat down with reporters from his native Ohio. He smoked a Camel. He talked about buying a car, a regular-guy moment to savour after nine years of being driven by the Capitol Police. And Boehner was certain that his top deputy — the affable, attentive, unobjectionable Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) — was about to win”.
Pointedly the article notes “There had been reasons to doubt that. Last month, McCarthy had embarrassed Republicans by suggesting that the House committee to investigate the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, was designed to score political points. Two days before, a back-bencher who opposed McCarthy circulated a vague letter asking whether any top Republicans had committed “misdeeds.” One day before, McCarthy had been formally rejected by the House’s hard-right caucus. Still, after all that, McCarthy had the votes. Boehner was sure. After all, who else was there? “I’m confident he’ll win today,” he said, according to the account of a reporter from the Gannett News Service. The reporters left. Boehner went to perform a ceremonial duty, opening the House for the day. Then, at 12:03 p.m., a pair of staffers pulled him into an office to tell him he was wrong”.
The article goes on to mention “On Thursday, Capitol Hill was still struggling to make sense of McCarthy’s sudden withdrawal from the race for speaker. It was caused, in part, by a party at war with itself. The same hard-line conservatives who hounded out Boehner had hounded out his likely successor before he had even held the speaker’s gavel. On Thursday, McCarthy seemed like a bystander at his own big moment, so much so that he did not even warn his allies that he was about to give up. “I’m not the one,” McCarthy told the other Republicans, who’d come expecting a vote. He said it so softly that many members couldn’t hear him at all”.
The extent of trouble in the GOP is clear when the piece reports that “Boehner had announced his resignation on Sept. 25, after four tumultuous years as speaker. His obvious successor was McCarthy, 50. The golden era of his candidacy lasted all the way until Sept. 29. “Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?” McCarthy told Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity, who had challenged him to state a promise that Republicans had delivered on. “But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping.” With that comment, McCarthy seemed to cast doubt on the credibility of the Benghazi committee, which discovered that Clinton had used a private e-mail account to conduct business as secretary of state. To Democrats, he seemed to be admitting that one of Congress’s most sacred duties — to investigate crimes and failings in government — had been perverted into a lab for political-opposition research”.
The article reconstructs the events speculating that “Last weekend, in private, McCarthy began to worry that he didn’t have the votes. He would need 218 votes to become speaker when the formal vote was held in late October. But no Democrats were going to back him. That meant McCarthy could afford to lose only 29 of the 247 House Republicans. On Thursday, the GOP would hold its internal vote, a crucial test of McCarthy’s strength. In his internal projections, he wasn’t getting what he needed. “I knew I could get 200-and-some votes. But getting 218 was not easy,” McCarthy said in an interview Thursday evening”.
Needless to say “That meant McCarthy needed to win over some of the House’s professional “no” votes, the same conservatives who had defied him and Boehner in votes over the debt limit, the “fiscal cliff” and the federal budget. This was a job McCarthy had never been good at. He was a walking personification of the problem that had felled Boehner — a human symbol of the GOP’s inability to keep order. McCarthy had recruited many of those conservatives, visited their districts, knew their families, bought them pizza. And, yet, even when he was the official party whip, they defied him. On Tuesday night, he went back to the same people, seeking a different result”.
The article goes on to add “McCarthy walked into a third-floor ballroom at the Capitol Hill Club, a bastion of the Republican establishment just south of the Capitol. Waiting for him were dozens of conservatives, including the crucial House Freedom Caucus — a group which says it has about 40 members (the exact number, and the full caucus membership list, are both secret). The Freedom Caucus had pledged to vote as a bloc if 80 percent of them could agree on one candidate. I’m my own man, McCarthy told them. I’m not John Boehner. I’m committed to creating a more inclusive House. He laid out plans to create a “kitchen cabinet” consisting of leaders drawn from conservative groups such as the Freedom Caucus. But they wanted him to make specific promises. Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), the leader of the House Tea Party Caucus, asked McCarthy to publicly oppose efforts by establishment groups — the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others — to run radio and TV ads criticising conservatives who defied their own leaders. McCarthy would not commit to a public pledge”.
Worryingly for the very future of the United States as a global power the piece mentions that “A few of them were willing to give McCarthy a chance, including some of those who McCarthy had recruited in 2010. But the vast majority couldn’t do it. Their constituents had been calling to complain that McCarthy was too much like Boehner. That left two other choices: Chaffetz and Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.). On paper, there was not much to recommend Webster: He was little-known in the House and was in danger of losing his seat entirely because of redistricting. His appeal as a leader was that, in effect, he was promising not to lead them. Elect me, he had told members, and every House member would be part of the team. No orders from on high. They chose Webster. If the Freedom Caucus followed through on its promise to vote as a bloc, that meant McCarthy might have lost 40 votes. Which would mean he couldn’t win”.
A related to this a piece speculates who might be the speaker if McCarthy is not “Conservatives seized the moment as McCarthy made his exodus, celebrating the departure of one of the GOP’s moderates and fastest-rising stars — and pledging to push for one of their own, a hard-liner on fiscal and social issues, to step forward in the coming weeks before the leadership elections are rescheduled. McCarthy’s associates, many hailing from mainstream Republican districts, urged caution and began efforts to draft another centrist Republican to succeed Boehner (Ohio). Boehner personally asked House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to run for speaker over two long phone conversations, according to two sources familiar with the exchanges. Boehner has told Ryan that he is the only person who can unite the House GOP at a time of turmoil. “It is total confusion — a banana republic,” said Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), a Boehner ally, as he recounted seeing a handful of House Republicans weeping Thursday over the downfall of McCarthy and the broader discord”.
Not surpurisingly the article notes “The scene at the Capitol yielded more questions than answers by the hour Thursday afternoon, with an array of influential figures such as Ryan still reluctant to take McCarthy’s place as the consensus candidate of the party’s establishment and those averse to firebrands. As they mulled and were courted, a parade of hopefuls with low profiles beyond Capitol Hill — such as Rep. Daniel Webster (Fla.), a former state House speaker, and Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (Utah) — made the case in huddles and in the hallways that they are ready to be a fresh face for an unsettled House”.
Sadly the piece goes on to report “Boehner, who last month said he would resign the speakership after weeks of facing a near-certain revolt from conservatives frustrated by his handling of legislation and what they see as a lack of aggression in countering President Obama’s agenda, said he will “serve as speaker until the House votes to elect a new speaker.” The bench for the House GOP is sparse, emptied in recent years by the same forces that have vexed Boehner and McCarthy. Virginia’s Eric Cantor, then the majority leader and firmly in line to succeed Boehner, was defeated in a 2014 House primary by a conservative challenger, elevating McCarthy but gutting the leadership of the political capital that Cantor had accumulated. The committee chairmanships, long a grooming area for future leaders and the path Boehner took to the speakership, have been filled in places by youthful members such as Chaffetz, 48. And the leadership slots below Boehner and McCarthy – majority whip and chief deputy whip – are occupied by Steve Scalise (La.) and Patrick McHenry (N.C.), respectively. Both have served in the House for a decade or less and are inexperienced as national spokesmen — inside operatives but far from recognisable voices”.
The confusion seems to grow when the piece mentions “That left Republicans searching Thursday for new names to add to mix. King floated Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a respected former House GOP campaign chairman, as a person who could be a calming presence. Several conservatives suggested House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (Tex.), a former leadership member who has strong relationships with the party’s conservative bloc. Others on the right said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, which was wary of McCarthy, would best reflect the political drift and impulses of the House. But he told reporters that he is not interested”.
The problem grows worse when several senior Republicans have refused the speakership, “Another House Republican who drew interest was Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), who is chairing the House Select Committee delving into the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya. William Kristol, the editor of the conservative Weekly Standard, said in a Twitter message that Gowdy should be “interim speaker for next year,” days after Gowdy was called to run for the post by conservative groups who have cheered his Benghazi investigation. But as the boomlet began, Gowdy said “no” when asked by reporters whether he would consider running. Scalise and McHenry, who had been running for lower leadership spots should McCarthy win the speakership, were encouraged to look higher up the chain of command. Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), who has been a front-line participant in the latest talks about the future of the GOP, also mulled his options”.
The piece adds that none of these names, bar Ryan, has the necessary qualities. Reports state that Boehner will have to remain until a replacement can be chosen, “Sensing that perhaps no one can ably navigate the terrain — or get the necessary votes, as required by the Constitution, to win the speakership in a floor vote — Rep. Greg Walden (Ore.), the National Republican Congressional Committee chairman, said he would consider running to be interim speaker as the House GOP worked out who could actually lead it in the months ahead. Tea-party groups weighed in, hoping to exert their own pull on the speaker’s race. Activist Mark Meckler said in a statement that the House GOP must end the “Washington cartel at a time when people are looking to outsiders to challenge the status quo.” Tea Party Patriots’ Jenny Beth Martin said this was a “historic moment” that demands a speaker with deep support with grass-roots conservatives”.
The article concludes “McCarthy, in an interview with National Review on Thursday, said whoever follows will have to grapple with a right flank of about 40 members that wants to direct the leadership, rather than being led. “I wouldn’t have enjoyed being speaker this way,” he said. On who he’d like to step forward, McCarthy said, “I personally want Paul Ryan.” On whether the House can be led, he said, “I don’t know. Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom.” It was that feeling, expressed across the GOP base, which gave candidates like Webster — a backbencher who won just 12 votes in the vote for speaker earlier this year — some optimism as others scrambled to fill the vacuum left by McCarthy”.