Oct 3, 2023 - Politics & Policy

GOP tensions explode after McCarthy bows out of speaker race

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

House Republicans were distraught, furious and concerned for the future of their party after Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) announced he won't run for speaker again after being ousted on Tuesday.

Why it matters: Several Republican lawmakers suggested it will be a challenge for any would-be McCarthy successor to unify the fractious conference he failed to tame.

What they're saying: "Frankly, one has to wonder whether the House is governable at all," said Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) coming out of the closed-door meeting where McCarthy made his announcement.

  • Johnson, the chair of the 70-member Main Street Caucus, said he doesn't have a favored candidate for the role: "I'm not sure I would wish this job on anyone. Kevin McCarthy was the most talented member of our conference."
  • "I'm at a loss ... I don't know who would want to operate under this set of rules," Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) said of McCarthy's announcement, adding that the "right people may have to be convinced" to run for the job.
  • "We have a lot of talented individuals in the conference," Rep. Greg Murphy (R-N.C.) told Axios. But, he said, "the problem lies" with the eight Republicans who voted to oust McCarthy: "Who are they going to accept? Are they going to attack him or her?"

State of play: The House is set to adjourn for the week and return Tuesday for a candidate forum followed by a possible GOP election on Wednesday to determine their next nominee for speaker, according to multiple members who were at the Tuesday night meeting.

  • The decision to skip town on a Tuesday met with anger from some members: "It's absolute horses**t we're jumping on a plane and heading home when our work isn't done," Rep. Kat Cammack (R-Fla.) said.

Zoom in: Some Republicans also vented their fury at the eight Republicans who voted with Democrats to remove McCarthy as speaker.

  • "I think we have eight selfish a**holes that undermine the institution and the conference," said Rep. Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.). "It's wrong. I think Kevin McCarthy certainly did not deserve that."
  • Rep. Carlos Gimenez (R-Fla.), a vocal McCarthy ally, said he was "very disappointment, very hurt" by the former speaker's decision "because it means that a group of terrorists have won."
  • "The man just loves chaos," Murphy said of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who introduced the motion to vacate.

The other side: Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), who voted to remove McCarthy, called the vote a "win for America because it's a win for change in Congress."

  • "I think the American people are looking for a Republican conference, Republican speaker that's going to fight in full force, with every tool at our disposal, to attack and defeat the radical leftist agenda," Good said.

What we're watching: Republicans are in for a hectic week as they scramble to find a replacement for McCarthy.

  • Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Texas) announced plans to nominate former President Trump for the job: "Donald J. Trump should come back and be the speaker."

More from Axios:

Go deeper