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October 9, 2015

U.S. House of Representatives scrambles to find a new Speaker


Rep. Kevin McCarthy shocked Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives by unexpectedly dropping out of the race for Speaker of the House.

McCarthy’s name circulated as the likely successor almost as soon as Speaker John Boehner announced his resignation last week, but the five-term California congressman and current house majority leader said the GOP needed a fresh face to unite members.

House Republicans were dumbstruck at the withdrawal. They had gathered at the Capitol to hold a vote to select their nominee for speaker.

“If we’re going to be strong, we have got to be 100 percent united,” McCarthy said.

The Republican Party has seen a split among its members recently. Conservative members of the House Freedom Caucus helped push out Boehner and credited themselves with preventing McCarthy from securing the 218 votes needed to secure the speakership.

“We need to find somebody that our whole body can unite behind and do what we were elected to do,” said Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who also entered the speaker’s race.

With McCarthy out of the race, the chances have increased for other Republican congressmen who were running. Many members are also calling for Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin to run. Ryan ran as Mitt Romney’s running mate in the 2012 election and chairs the House Ways and Means Committee.

If a new speaker cannot be agreed upon, Boehner may have to remain until a replacement is found. Since the speaker does not have to be someone currently serving in Congress, some Republicans have discussed bringing in someone like Romney, although NewsHour Political Director Lisa DesJardins thinks that’s a small possibility.


Speaker of the House —presiding officer of the United States House of Representatives, elected by a majority party caucus

GOP — stands for “Grand Old Party,” a nickname for the Republican Party

caucus — a group of people with shared concerns within a political party or larger organization

Warm up questions
  1. How many members make up the U.S. House of Representatives?
  2. Who is the current Speaker of the House?
  3. What determines who becomes speaker?
Critical thinking questions
  1. Why did McCarthy pull out of the speaker’s race?
  2. Why is it politically significant that the Republicans are not able to come to a consensus on who they want as their nominee for speaker?
  3. What might Democrats or other political opponents make of the current confusion within the House GOP?
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