by Lu Jiafei
U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Thursday abruptly dropped bid to replace the outgoing House Speaker John Boehner, thrusting House Republican leadership into uncertainty.
Just moments before House Republicans started voting for the party’s nomination for the House speaker, McCarthy, the No. 2 Republican in the House, announced his decision to drop out of the race despite high certainty that he would clinch the party’s nomination.
“Over the last week it has become clear to me that our conference is deeply divided and needs to unite behind one leader,” said McCarthy in a statement.
“I have always put this conference ahead of myself. Therefore I am withdrawing my candidacy for speaker of the House,” said McCarthy.
Calling for a new leader with “fresh face,” McCarthy said he would remain as majority leader.
The sudden decision came as the Republicans in the House were scrambling to find a replacement to Boehner, who would resign from all Congress duties at the end of this month, and left the Republicans uncertain about the path forward.
The nomination vote, which was previously slated for Thursday noon, was put off without new date set.
Meanwhile, the final House floor vote is scheduled for Oct. 29, and Republicans, shocked and befuddled by McCarthy’s decision, would only have three weeks to come up with a nominee to meet challenges from the Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, No. 1 Democrat in the House.
Chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee Paul Ryan, 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee, is among the top choices for most Republicans to replace Boehner. However, Ryan reiterated his decision not to run for the House Speaker shortly after McCarthy dropped out.
“Kevin McCarthy is best person to lead the House, and so I’m disappointed in this decision,” Ryan said in a statement. “While I am grateful for the encouragement I’ve received, I will not be a candidate.”
Like Boehner’s abrupt announcement of resignation from Congress last month, McCarthy’s sudden drop out of the race highlighted how the insurgence of a relatively small group of hard-line conservatives within the Republican Party challenges the party establishment.
Though complaining the powerlessness and frustration deriving from House Republican leadership’s reluctance to consider their hard-line conservative agenda, the hard-line Republicans, who came to Washington on the conservative Tea Party wave of 2010, become the decisive factor in determining who would be the next House speaker.
Without the votes of House Democrats, any Republican nominee cannot afford to lose more than 29 votes of House Republicans in the final vote on Oct. 29.
However, a group of 40 hard-line conservatives announced late Wednesday they would support less-known Representative Daniel Webster of Florida, raising concern whether McCarthy could get enough votes to sail through to the speaker’s chair on Oct. 29.
Whoever inherits the speaker’s chair would also inherit a series of fiscal deadlines.
The U.S. Treasure Department had said earlier that the federal government was taking in less revenue than it had anticipated and therefore must increase its borrowing authority by Nov. 5.
If the Congress fails to lift the debt limit in four weeks, the government would face the prospect of economic chaos.
Then, the Congress will have to pass the spending bill for the current fiscal year by Dec. 11, the date for the current stopgap bill to expire. Enditem