Representative Kevin McCarthy abruptly dropped out of a race for speaker of the US House of Representatives, a position for which he was a favorite. According to Rep. Tom Rooney of Florida, the decision, announced by McCarthy at a caucus meeting, left GOP lawmakers in shock, even “audibly crying.”
McCarthy said he did not have a way to win the race, that he was “not the one to unify the party,” according to The New York Times. His candidacy had been challenged by a group of Republican hard liners from the Freedom Caucus who announced on Wednesday that they would support Daniel Webster, a representative from Florida, for the top spot in the House.
Conservatives within the ranks of Republican lawmakers, and the some of the party’s more right-wing backers, have been suggesting that a vote for McCarthy would be another vote for outgoing speaker John Boehner, who is unpopular among the party’s more conservative base.
Webster is a long-shot candidate, but the power-hungry Freedom Caucus is trying to use the move to gain influence within the party, including committee seats and campaign cash.
McCarthy recently got in trouble for bragging during a Fox News interview that the House committee on Benghazi had hurt Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid. McCarthy was criticized by fellow GOP-ers and later admitted himself his comments were a gaffe.
House Republicans tweeted that the leadership election would be postponed.