Rep. Kevin McCarthy pulled himself out of the race to succeed Rep. John Boehner as House speaker Thursday, after telling colleagues in a private conference meeting that he was not the right person for the job.
McCarthy hurt his chances last week when he suggested in an interview on Fox News that the House committee investigating Benghazi was set up to inflict damage on Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign.
The GOP nominating contest that had been set for Thursday afternoon has been postponed.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Ca) told reporters that that members of the conference “were shocked” by the abrupt decision because McCarthy had “the vast majority of the conference’s confidence and votes.”
Said Issa, “It’s my understanding that [McCarthy] felt he could not get to 218.” Those are the number of votes needed to elect a speaker in the full House vote which had been scheduled for October 29.
Via the New York Times:
As shocked members left the room there was a sense of total disarray, with no clear path forward and no set date for a new vote. Representative Peter King, Republican of New York, said that in dropping out of race, Mr. McCarthy told the room, “I’m not the one to unify the party.”
“I think I shocked some of you, huh?” McCarthy told reporters as he began his press conference announcing his decision.
McCarthy stressed that as public servants, “we should put this conference first.”
“If we’re going to unite and be strong, we need a fresh face to do that,” he said.