Yesterday, Kevin McCarthy, Republican House Majority Leader, received the kiss-of-death – an endorsement from hated former Vice President and notorious war criminal Dick Cheney for his run for election as Speaker of the House. Today, McCarthy has decided to step aside and withdrew his name from nomination.
The blow was bestowed on McCarthy yesterday when Cheney said: “I’ve known Kevin McCarthy for many years. He is a good man and a strong leader…As a man of the House and a former member of the House leadership, I know that Kevin McCarthy is the person we need as speaker in these dangerous and important times.”
Just a short while ago Politico reported that McCarthy abandoned his bid for speaker, admitting that his widely reported Benghazi gaff that the House Select Committee was a politically motivated witch-hunt to bring Hillary Clinton down “wasn’t helpful.”
CNN is reporting that the nomination conference original scheduled for today has been put off because McCarthy felt “he had the votes for Thursday’s closed-door nomination, but was concerned he would not have the 218 votes when the nomination would be brought to a full House later this month.” In other words, McCarthy knew that he would face public backlash from the Republican Freedom Caucus, a group of about 40 hardline ultraconservatives who have threatened to upend the Republican race to succeed outgoing House Speaker John Boehner.
The House is in utter chaos, as speaker Boehner announced that elections for the new speaker were being postponed. Politico is reporting that “Pandemonium broke out in the Longworth Office Building, where Republicans had been expected to nominate McCarthy, as lawmakers and aides reacted to the news with astonishment.” The House Republican Conference is now in a serious crisis. “McCarthy was one of the only lawmakers in the chamber who was seen as able to garner the 218 requisite votes to become speaker.”
The race is now wide open and there is speculation about who may run. Paul Ryan, the high-profile chair of the Ways and Means Committee, expressed disappointment in McCarthy’s decision not to run; “Kevin McCarthy was the best person to lead the House, and so I am disappointed in this decision.” But, he also reiterated with speculation about his own candidacy for speaker; “While I am grateful for the encouragement I’ve received, I will not be a candidate.”
One thing is clear that McCarthy’s ‘Hillary gaffe’ was the beginning and end of his bid for Speaker. We can smile at the fact that the House is in chaos and poke fun and suggesting Cheney’s endorsement led to his demise in less than 24 hours. However, as Rep. Rick Mulvaney (R-SC) co-founder of the House Freedom Caucus said: “I don’t consider it to be a victory for the Freedom Caucus…pointing to the comments McCarthy made about the Benghazi committee…However, it is evidence of the deep divisions in the party that need to be healed” and that couldn’t happen to a nicer group of crazies, especially during a presidential election cycle.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.