Speaker Candidates to Audition for House Conservatives

PHOTO: House Republican Whip, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, leaves a meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, June 18, 2014.Win McNamee/Getty Images
House Republican Whip, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, leaves a meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, June 18, 2014.

The House conservatives who forceed Speaker John Boehner’s early retirement will hear from the candidates looking to succeed the Ohio Republican.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Florida and House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, are set to address a number of House conservative groups, including the House Freedom Caucus and Tea Party Caucus, at a Monday evening forum held after votes.

Conservatives have called for more inclusive management of the conference, greater representation in committee leadership, and want more bills to go through the committee process, among various demands.

McCarthy, who has pledged to lead inclusively if elected, is favored to replace Boehner, who was under pressure from conservatives to defund Planned Parenthood and risk a government shutdown when he announced his resignation Sep. 25.

He's faced some criticism for his comments last week linking the House Select Benghazi Committee’s investigation to Hillary Clinton’s declining presidential polling -- a flub that paved the way for Chaffetz’s surprise entrance into the race.

McCarthy has since regretted his comments and has defended the committee’s work.

“The mission of the Select Committee on Benghazi is to find the truth -- period,” he said in a statement Tuesday.

The California Republican is expected to win the secret ballot conference Speaker vote on Thursday, and allies say he has a majority of the conference behind him.

McCarthy needs conservatives’ support to win the 218 votes needed in the Oct. 29 Speaker election to officially replace Boehner.

“There are fifty or so members who just cannot or will not vote for existing leadership on the floor of the House,” Chaffetz claimed Monday in an interview with ABC News, conceding that he’ll likely lose his bid against McCarthy.

McCarthy can only afford to lose 29 Republican votes on Oct. 29 and still win Boehner’s gavel. Twenty-five Republicans voted against Boehner in January. (Webster, a former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, won 12 votes in that Speaker’s election.)

Conservatives say McCarthy, who voted with a minority of Republicans last week to avert a government shutdown, will have to chart a course forward while defending his record in leadership.

“He’s got to explain why very little happened for four-and-a-half-years with Republican control, and how that will change,” said Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kansas. “He’s also got to articulate how he’s going to put the party back together.”

Huelskamp said he expects other Republicans to enter the Speaker's race given the uncertainty surrounding the vote on the House floor later this month, but would not name any of the potential candidates.

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, said today that Democrats will stay out of the GOP Speaker vote on the floor later this month, and that he expects all Democrats to back Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California.

"I don't think there's a great role for us to play on this," he said.

On Monday, Boehner announced that elections for other leadership posts would be delayed until after Oct. 29. The move is expected to help McCarthy, as some members have expressed reluctance at simply elevating members of the existing leadership team, like McCarthy and Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-Louisiana, who is running to replace him.