The House GOP now has a full-blown leadership crisis on its hands. As Republican lawmakers gathered on Thursday to elect a new speaker, John Boehner’s presumptive heir for the top spot, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), unexpectedly bowed out of the race, telling his colleagues he was “not the guy.” Boehner—who reportedly joked recently, “I had this terrible nightmare last night that I was trying to get out and I couldn’t get out”—was forced to postpone the vote for his successor. Lawmakers who were present for the closed-door meeting reported a scene of “chaos” that included “audible crying.”
Rep. Peter King tells me that members are crying in cloakroom, unable to handle the unrest and confusion. “A banana republic,” he says.
— Robert Costa (@costareports) October 8, 2015
Boehner, who promised before the 2014 election that he would tame his fractious party, shocked the capital last month by announcing he was resigning from Congress. But there were still plenty of candidates to fill the top job—or so we thought. McCarthy, as the House GOP’s No. 2 man and a prodigious fundraiser, immediately became the front-runner for Boehner’s job, despite speculation that he would have no easier time wrangling the Freedom Caucus, the rebellious group of right-wingers who frequently were a thorn in Boehner’s side.
With McCarthy out, it’s unclear who will fill the leadership void. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who was not previously thought of as as a serious candidate for the job (apparently even by himself), is still in the running. And the Freedom Caucus has put forward Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.) for the speakership. But neither Chaffetz nor Webster appear to have enough backers to win the speakership. Meanwhile, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), who is highly regarded by his colleagues, has made it plain that he has no interest in the job. At the moment, it looks like Boehner’s nightmare may indeed come true.