In breaking news last night, Kevin McCarthy dropped out of the race for House Speaker following John Boehner’s resignation. This has all sorts of connotations for students of Politics that could be very useful.
Firstly, it should never have been McCarthy. When you study, if you haven’t already, the leadership of the House, you should hopefully learn that the Majority Leader in this current Congress should have remained Eric Cantor, and this would have made him the natural successor to Boehner. The reason Cantor wasn’t the Majority Leader was his shock defeat last year when he was beaten in the primaries by a relatively unknown Tea Party candidate (https://lgspolitics.wordpress.com/2014/06/13/maybe-the-tea-partys-not-over/) – he never even got to run for reelection in his seat and therefore also lost the Majority Leader position. Kevin McCarthy then, with relatively little experience, was elevated from the position of whip to fill the Majority Leader spot, making him odds on favourite for the position of Speaker. He was also Boehner’s favoured candidate, although Boehner never formally announced this as doing so may well have sunk McCarthy’s chances given current views of Boehner.
Secondly, it is an important story as it highlights the power of the Speaker. The Speaker/leader of the party in the House, as he gets to decide on the date of the votes for leadership. The dates for one of these votes was originally Thursday (yesterday) however with Steve Scalise likely to win, Boehner pushed back the vote to 29 Oct to give others a chance to run against and hopefully defeat Scalise. This is a good example of using this power to achieve what Boehner wants before he leaves. (http://edition.cnn.com/2015/10/04/politics/house-leadership-election-delay/)
This is also a useful example of the factions within the Republican Party. It was the 30-40 conservative Republican Congressmen who have formed the ‘Freedom Caucus’ which forced Boehner into resigning and it is them who are celebrating the withdrawal of McCarthy…they want someone more conservative. Their caucus is proving cruicial as to win the vote for Speaker is a bipartisan vote, therefore to win without relying on the Democrats, any Republican candidate can only afford for 29 Republicans to rebel. More than this and the vote will fail unless they can convince Democrats to vote with them.
With Paul Ryan, the only other really high profile candidate for this position, still maintaining he does not want the job of Speaker, the field is now wide open, the Republicans remain divided and Boehner is staying put until a replacement is found…dysfunction still seems to be the order of the day on Capitol Hill.