House Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) communications director told Time magazine yesterday, “He’s not going anywhere. If there’s a small crew of members who think that he’s just going to pick up and resign in the middle of his term, they are going to be sadly mistaken.”
That was literally yesterday afternoon, reinforcing the fact that this morning's news was, to put it mildly, unexpected.
There are all kinds of questions surrounding this story, but near the top of the list is a pretty straightforward inquiry: who in their right mind would actually volunteer for the job Boehner is giving up?
Not only is it practically impossible to lead the current crop of House Republicans, but there's also the inconvenient fact that recent GOP Speakers tend to meet unwelcome fates: Newt Gingrich resigned in disgrace; Bob Livingstone resigned in disgrace; Dennis Hastert is under criminal indictment; and John Boehner is quitting mid-term.
Already today, we know that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has withdrawn from consideration. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), who tried to oust Boehner, said he's not running, either. Former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) was going to be Speaker, but his Republican constituents abandoned him in a primary last year.
And that apparently leaves his successor, current House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). Politico reported today:
[McCarthy] is widely expected to serve as the next speaker. But there is serious unrest in the House Republican ranks, as a small clutch of conservatives have continuously clashed with establishment Republicans. It takes 218 votes on the House floor to win the speakership, and many GOP insiders believe that McCarthy is the only person who could cobble together a coalition to win. [...] Boehner allies appear to be rallying around McCarthy for speaker already, providing him a hefty base for the internal House Republican Conference election, and a speaker vote on the House floor.
It would have been difficult to imagine such circumstances up until very recently.
Remember, when McCarthy was elevated to the #2 slot in the House Republican leadership, he'd only been in Congress for seven years -- making him easily the least experienced Majority Leader in American history. By one count, during his brief tenure, McCarthy sponsored only three bills, and only two of them actually passed.
One of them renamed a post office.
The other renamed a flight research center.
Now he's going to be Speaker of the House and second in the line of presidential succession?
In June 2014, I wrote that with Boehner’s future uncertain, McCarthy is "well positioned to lead the House in the not-too-distant future, despite a very thin resume and an extremely brief tenure in Congress." And 15 months later, here we are.
I noted earlier that there was some scuttlebutt about House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) eyeing the Speaker's gavel, but that chatter quickly faded and the far-right Louisianan has instead announced his intention to run for Majority Leader -- which reinforces the impression that McCarthy is poised for a historic promotion.