With House Republicans seemingly poised to nominate Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy for Speaker in a vote on Thursday, more conservative Republicans rallied behind a long shot candidate for the post, threatening to spark a floor fight later this month that could leave the House unable to elect a new Speaker.
“McCarthy absolutely is not an option,” said Rep. Tom Massie (R-KY), arguing the Majority Leader is too closely linked to outgoing Speaker John Boehner.
“You can’t tell our constituents we put his right-hand man in as Speaker,” said Massie, who is one of the Republicans who will instead back Rep. Dan Webster (R-FL).
“He will restore respect to our institution,” said Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) of Webster, who received 12 votes for Speaker earlier this year in a late challenge to Boehner.
If enough conservatives like Massie, Amash and King stick with Webster or vote for someone other than McCarthy on the House floor – then it could deny McCarthy a majority and leave the Speaker’s post in limbo, and possibly force Speaker John Boehner to stay on.
Boehner downplayed that possibility to reporters.
“There is going to be an election for Speaker on October 29, and I am confident a Speaker will be elected that day,” Boehner said.
But the Republican numbers raise questions about Boehner’s rosy outlook for that vote, which could lead to several weeks of continued internal GOP wrangling.
While Webster will get votes from some conservatives, he was having trouble winning over some of his fellow lawmakers from Florida.
“Dan is a very good guy, a very good friend,” said Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL), who didn’t seem to be on the verge of voting for his neighbor.
Others said it was time to give Kevin McCarthy a chance and see how he could move the GOP forward.
“I think it would be much better if Republicans could come together,” said Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), who will be voting for Kevin McCarthy.
“If you believe in the Constitution, then you believe in majority rule,” Crenshaw added.
“I think as Republicans, we should support the will of the majority,” said Crenshaw.
That doesn’t seem to be an option right now for more conservative lawmakers in the GOP – and it could lead to a dramatic showdown later this month on the House floor.