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McCarthy on Boehner Resignation: GOP Must 'Focus on Healing and Unifying'

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who stepped into the leadership role after Eric Cantor's (R-Va.) primary defeat last year, said this morning that the GOP caucus needs to heal after leadership switches to a new speaker of the House.

John Boehner (R-Ohio), who had talked about resigning after two decades in Congress and was potentially going to use his 66th birthday (Nov. 17) to announce his decision, bumped up that timetable today.

Instead, he'll step down at the end of October.

Votes for a new speaker will be split between the very conservative House Freedom Caucus, which was driving to oust Boehner but doesn't have enough votes among its members -- 42 -- to win a speaker's election, the conservative Republican Study Committee, and more moderate Republicans.

McCarthy has strong relationships throughout the GOP conference and won his leadership election with a strong showing of support.

Unless the Freedom Caucus can put forward a formidable enough candidate, such as chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), McCarthy is the front-runner for the speaker's gavel.

And since the speaker is elected by the full House, with 218 votes needed, Democrats won't get a simple majority but can influence the outcome. Boehner was aided in his last speaker election by Democratic no-shows for the vote, pushing the threshold down. Twenty-five GOPs voted against Boehner in that election, offering candidates such as Reps. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Daniel Webster (R-Fla.) and Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), and members who no longer served in the House.

“Since I first came to Congress in 2007, John has been serving his constituents and his country with unparalleled passion. John has been a leader, mentor, and most of all friend throughout, and I learned not only from his experience but also from his unshakeable faith and principles. It takes profound humility to step down from a position of power, and John’s depth of character is unmatched," McCarthy said in a statement after the morning caucus meeting at which Boehner emotionally announced his resignation.

“As our country has weathered difficult times at home and abroad, John has acted as a true statesman, always moving forward with the best interests of the American people close to his heart. He will be missed because there is simply no one else like him," McCarthy continued.

“Now is the time for our conference to focus on healing and unifying to face the challenges ahead and always do what is best for the American people.”

Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), who might jump into the race as well, said he was "eternally grateful for the steady, principled leadership Speaker Boehner has provided the House, and for the friendship and mentorship he's given me."

"There is no Speaker in history who has done more to defend innocent human life, to combat a lawless executive branch, and to advance a conservative governing vision for our country," Scalise said. "His humility, patriotism, and commitment to our values will be deeply missed."

There's been no comment yet from Jordan or the Freedom Caucus.