by Sabrina Romviel
Kevin McCarthy dropped out of the race for Speaker of the House on October 8th. Several writers have given reasons for his withdrawal, none of which are one hundred percent accurate. Gail Chaddock, Politics Editor and Deputy Washington Bureau Chief for The Christian Science Monitor, gives the full scoop on McCarthy’s withdrawal, why Paul Ryan enters the race instead, and more.
Chaddock first explains why the slot of Speaker of the House is empty. “The Republican Party is so divided that they cannot agree on a speaker,” she states. According to Chaddock, the Republican freedom caucus is very conservative, and their constituents are one-sided as well. The Speaker of the House, however, must appeal to both the conservatives and those who don’t agree with the conservatives’ views. She compares the tough job to a meat grinder, saying, “It’s going to be very hard for anyone else to be successful at it.”
When asked why McCarthy left the race, Chaddock says, “he didn’t have the support. He didn’t have the votes. So he could have gone to the floor, where you need 218 votes to become Speaker, and he would have failed because [the conservatives] wouldn’t have been with him.” She emphasizes the importance of the Speaker’s ability to balance both sides, a skill that McCarthy does not have. Another reason for his resignation could be some embarrassing information about his private life. Even if McCarthy had the votes, Chaddock states that whatever this unknown fact was would damage his reputation.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan recently entered the race for the Speaker of the House in place of McCarthy, and what Chaddock has to say about this is quite fascinating. “I was talking to a lifelong Republican–we had dinner one night,” she starts. “And he said, ‘I’ll tell you what’s going to happen. The obvious person is Paul Ryan, but he cannot look like he wants it. What he has to do is refuse to run for it, and let all the other candidates go by. He has to wait until he’s the only tree left standing in the forest. And then he has to say, ‘Okay. Here are my terms.’” Chaddock continues by describing three conditions under which Ryan will consider the speaker role. First, he does not want any tricks to vacate the chair. Second, he will not allow the government to shut down. And third, he still wants to be able to spend time with his family.
Why is the Speaker of the House role so important, anyway? As noted by Chaddock, the Speaker is “two heartbeats away from the presidency.” If something happens to both the president and the vice president, the Speaker of the House becomes president. It’s a big job, and according to Chaddock, “being the Speaker of the House is very difficult. To have the majority of people ready to vacate the chair and possibly get rid of you is a frightening, constant thought.” This is a much bigger job than leading the House’s most important committee.