President Donald Trump’s time in office has been a “complete disaster” aside from foreign affairs, fellow Republican and former U.S. House Speaker John Boehner said at an energy conference.
The former Ohio congressman said he has been friends with Trump for 15 years but never thought he would occupy the White House.
And while he praised Trump’s aggressive steps to challenge the Islamic State militant group and other moves in international affairs, he was highly critical of the president’s other early efforts.
“Everything else he’s done has been a complete disaster,” Boehner said at the energy conference in Houston on Wednesday, according to the energy publication Rigzone. “He’s still learning how to be president.”
A spokesman for Boehner confirmed the comments. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Boehner’s remarks.
The former House speaker, who resigned from Congress in 2015, was also highly critical of efforts by the administration and his former Republican colleagues in Congress to advance sweeping healthcare and tax reform plans.
He said Republicans should never have tried to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, even after the House narrowly passed an overhaul measure. The Senate is considering its own version of the package.
And he dismissed tax reform efforts, which form a cornerstone of the Republican policy agenda, as “just a bunch of happy talk.”
While Boehner’s successor, Speaker Paul Ryan, tries to include a border adjustment tax, a tax on imports, as a key piece of any tax code overhaul, Boehner declared it “deader than a doornail” amid opposition from fellow Republicans and the White House.
Boehner also supported efforts to “get to the bottom” of any potential interactions between Trump associates and the Russian government. However, he described any calls to impeach Trump as the purview of “the crazy left-wing Democratic colleagues of mine.”
Democratic Representative Al Green has formally introduced articles of impeachment for Trump, but such an effort has not been embraced by most Democratic lawmakers as the investigation continues.
The House is poised to vote on a bipartisan pact charting a two-year budget truce and Republicans are set to nominate Rep. Paul Ryan as the chamber’s new speaker, milestones GOP leaders hope will transform their party’s recent chaos into calm in time for next year’s presidential and congressional campaigns.
Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and Senate were urging lawmakers to back the agreement, which would resolve fights over defense and domestic spending and federal borrowing until early 2017. Expectations were for House passage Wednesday and final Senate approval next week, even as hard-right conservatives and farm-state lawmakers arrayed against the deal.
“That’s good news for everybody. It’s a step forward,” President Barack Obama said of the deal Tuesday in Chicago. “And I hope both parties come together to pass this agreement without delay.”
Hours before the vote, Ryan released a statement saying he will vote for the bill because it makes “meaningful reforms” that strengthen safety net programs like Social Security and provides sufficient resources for the military. He also alluded to the dissension among Republican that led to the resignation of House Speaker John Boehner, now in his last week in Congress.
“What I’ve heard from members over the last two weeks is a desire to wipe the slate clean, put in place a process that builds trust, and start focusing on big ideas,” Ryan said. “What has been produced will go a long way toward relieving the uncertainty hanging over us. …It’s time for us to turn the page on the last few years and get to work on a bold agenda that we can take to the American people.”
Boehner, R-Ohio, was pivotal in crafting what amounts to a valedictory legislative prize for his supporters and a whack at his conservative House nemeses. The quarter-century House veteran serves his final day in Congress on Friday, driven into abrupt retirement by rebellious GOP hardliners who scorned his penchant for compromise with Obama and Democrats.
“I have a gift for you, too,” Boehner told his House GOP colleagues at a closed-door meeting Tuesday, after they gave him a golf cart as a parting present. He called the agreement “the best possible deal at this moment for our troops, for taxpayers and for the American people.”
Without legislation, the government could lapse into an economy-jolting default next week. A partial federal shutdown would occur without action by Dec. 11.
Unyielding conservatives like members of the House Freedom Caucus railed against the agreement, calling it a backroom deal that surrendered too much to Obama.
“No wonder so many Americans distrust Congress,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, the Freedom Caucus leader.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., a presidential candidate, promised a filibuster, calling the package a capitulation that illustrates “why the grassroots Republicans are so angry with establishment Republicans.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., seemed ready to use procedures to limit the delay to a few days — underscoring the conservatives’ helplessness when confronted with bipartisan cooperation.
The agreement would provide an extra $80 billion, divided evenly between the Pentagon and domestic agencies over the next two years, and extend the government’s authority to borrow to pay bills into March 2017, as Obama’s successor settles into the White House.
Approval would reduce the chance of partisan fights cascading into a federal shutdown or default, a relief to Republicans fearing such events would alienate voters.
A foremost beneficiary would be Ryan, R-Wis., the 2012 GOP vice presidential candidate, who seemed certain to be nominated as speaker when House Republicans vote Wednesday. Boehner had said he wanted to “clean the barn” of politically messy issues so Ryan, 45, could make a fresh start.
Ryan’s spokesman has said Ryan played no role in the negotiations that led to the budget deal. Ryan himself has also said the secret, top-level process that party leaders and the White House used to reach the accord “stinks” and promised not to operate that way as speaker.
The full House is scheduled to formally elect Ryan as speaker Thursday.
One conservative leader, Rep. Bill Flores, R-Texas, predicted the budget compromise would get 70 to 90 GOP votes, which seemed sufficient for passage when combined with what is expected to be solid support from Democrats.
The extra spending provided for in the agreement would be financed by a potpourri of savings including sales of millions of gallons from the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve, curbs on Medicare reimbursements to hospitals and doctors and tougher federal debt collection, including allowing federal agents to call people’s cell phones.
It would trim federal subsidies to companies that sell crop insurance to farmers, creating an uproar among agriculture-state lawmakers.
The package would also avert a looming shortfall in the Social Security disability trust fund that threatened to limit benefits, and head off an unprecedented increase in Medicare premiums for doctors’ visits for about 15 million beneficiaries.
Eds: AP Congressional Correspondent Erica Werner contributed to this report.
The job of leading House Republicans may have gone from difficult to impossible.
After two tumultuous weeks that saw the current speaker announce his resignation and his heir apparent abruptly pull out of the running, House Republicans are in disarray as they confront a leadership vacuum. And the only person widely deemed fit to fill it is a lawmaker who says he doesn’t want to, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and the party’s 2012 vice presidential nominee.
Even as they plead with Ryan to reconsider, Republicans are left asking themselves whether anyone can lead them. And even if Ryan does yield to their entreaties, some question whether even he could tame a House GOP that seems fractured beyond repair, with a “hell no” caucus ready to risk crises and government shutdowns to achieve its goals and establishment-minded lawmakers seemingly powerless to do anything about it.
“It is bad,” said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y. “We cannot allow 35 or 40 people to hijack the party and blackmail the Congress. We have to get things done.”
On Friday, lawmakers left Washington in confusion and discord to head home to their districts for a weeklong recess. Ryan returned to Janesville, Wisconsin, to his wife and young family to turn over his options, with leading Republicans inside Congress and out urging him to step up for the good of the party.
Before the House adjourned, outgoing Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, who’d intended to leave Congress Oct. 30, assured lawmakers he would stay on until a replacement can be selected. When that will happen is uncertain, but Boehner urged Republicans to find a way out of their turmoil together.
“This institution cannot grind to a halt,” he said at a closed-door meeting according to an account provided by someone in the room. “It’s up to the people in this room to listen to each other, come together and figure this out. Time for us to take the walls down, open up our ears and listen to each other.”
Yet by announcing he would resign rather than face a tea party-backed floor vote to depose him, Boehner conceded that the fight to lead the House was one he could not win. And within days of his announcement, the same bloc of compromise-averse hardliners who’d pushed him out derailed his No. 2, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. McCarthy withdrew from the speaker’s race at the last possible moment on Thursday, as it became clear he would struggle for the needed majority on the House floor.
Lawmakers were left to fret that whoever becomes speaker next — whether Ryan or someone else — could simply end up the latest victim of a corrosive dynamic that forced a government shutdown two years ago in a failed attempt to end President Barack Obama’s health care law. That dynamic has caused crisis after crisis ever since.
Major challenges await whoever does move into the job, including a fight over raising the debt ceiling and must-pass spending legislation in early December that hardliners hope to use to cut funding for Planned Parenthood, which would risk another shutdown.
“No matter who we put in that chair is going to have to figure out a way to change the political dynamic,” said Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa. “That is a much harder question.”
It’s all happening at a moment when House Republicans enjoy their biggest majority in 80 years and control of the Senate, platforms they hoped to use to set out a responsible governing agenda to show voters the GOP deserves to be returned to the White House.
Yet amid the muddle, some members of the rank-and-file saw signs of hope that the leadership collapse and attendant soul-searching could somehow result in a more open House GOP with a bigger role for all. Hardliners routinely complain loudly about being shut out of the process, but those are complaints that some of the more establishment-minded lawmakers share.
Third-term Rep. Scott Rigell of Virginia offered one example, complaining that he had proposed instituting an hourlong annual ethics training for lawmakers but could not get agreement, even though such a policy is routine at major corporations.
“There’s just this reluctance to change anything, and so I think this is cathartic in a way,” Rigell said. “I really think we’ll get through this.”
Speaker John Boehner wants to leave the House. He really does.
But the Ohio Republican is staying put, for now — and that could improve the chances for a debt limit increase by early next month to avoid a market-shattering government default.
Boehner’s continued presence also might help a bipartisan budget deal to head off a government shutdown in December.
The tea party forces that pushed Boehner to plan his exit after nearly five years in the top job now have less leverage against a man with nothing to lose. Conservative hardliners have caused further chaos by blocking the ascension of Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
Yet there is no move afoot to hasten Boehner’s exit as House Republicans decide how to fill the top job.
Endlessly divided, House Republicans pleaded with Rep. Paul Ryan on Friday to rescue them from their damaging leadership vacuum. But the GOP’s 2012 vice presidential nominee showed little appetite for the prestigious yet thankless job of speaker of the House.
The Wisconsin Republican who chairs the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee — his dream job, he’s repeatedly declared — refused comment again and again as reporters chased him around the Capitol a day after Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy shocked his colleagues by withdrawing from the speaker’s race moments before the vote.
McCarthy’s abrupt decision came just two weeks after the current speaker, John Boehner of Ohio, announced his own plans to resign at month’s end, citing opposition from the small but strident bloc of hardcore conservatives who almost immediately turned on McCarthy, Boehner’s No. 2.
That left Republicans in chaos, with a yawning void at the top of their leadership ladder even as they confront enormous fiscal challenges and budgetary deadlines that could threaten a government shutdown and unprecedented default in the months to come.
So GOP lawmakers, from Boehner and McCarthy on down, turned to Ryan, 45, the only figure in the House seen as having the stature, wide appeal and intelligence to lead Republicans out of the mess they’re in.
“He’d be an amazing speaker,” McCarthy declared to a bank of TV cameras after Republicans met behind closed doors to discuss their predicament. “But he’s got to decide.”
Said Rep. Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia, himself a potential candidate for the job: “He’s the only guy who can unite us right now.”
Not long after, Ryan rushed out of the Capitol, refusing to talk to reporters. With Congress heading into a weeklong recess, he was on his way home to Janesville, Wisconsin, to his wife and young family.
Ryan’s spokesman, Brendan Buck, said: “Chairman Ryan appreciates the support he’s getting from his colleagues but is still not running for speaker.”
Why not? Possible reasons include the presidential ambitions he may well still harbor. The speaker’s post, highly prestigious and second in line to the presidency, requires a huge commitment of time and effort in corralling a party’s House members. It is not on anyone’s tactical roadmap to the White House.
But Republicans were determined to do what they could to get Ryan to reconsider. Rep. Darrell Issa of California said he carried Ryan’s gym bag for him Friday morning in an effort to persuade him to run, and Ryan even fielded a call from his presidential running mate, Mitt Romney.
Romney later issued an effusive statement declaring: “Paul has a driving passion to get America back on a path of growth and opportunity. With Paul, it’s not just words, it’s in his heart and soul.”
The clamor for Ryan dominated Republicans’ interest while Democrats watched with a mixture of fascination and trepidation, concerned about the challenges just ahead for Congress.
Several Republicans were quick to warn that despite Ryan’s popularity, he too could fall victim to the ferocious crosscurrents that felled Boehner and blocked McCarthy’s ascent.
“The same people who wanted to take down John Boehner, who wanted to take down Kevin McCarthy, are going to want to take down the next guy, too,” said Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania.
Indeed some in the hardline House Freedom Caucus, the faction of 30-plus conservatives responsible for causing much of the House’s disarray, were already registering their disapproval of Ryan. And some outside conservatives were pointing to his support for immigration legislation and the 2008 Wall Street bailout as disqualifying him for the speaker’s chair.
“I think he has the same problems” as Boehner and McCarthy, said Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona, a Freedom Caucus member. Gosar pointed to Ryan’s alliance with McCarthy and former Majority Leader Eric Cantor — who once termed themselves the “Young Guns” — and said, “They’re definitely conjoined.”
Others in the Freedom Caucus sounded more open.
“Paul has earned a great deal of credibility, especially on fiscal issues,” said Rep. Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina. “And if you look across the right wing of our party that is sort of a unifying theme.”
Ryan won plaudits in 2013 for working with Democratic Sen. Patty Murray on a bipartisan budget deal that scaled back onerous, across-the-board cuts on programs ranging from the Pentagon to national parks.
But one Republican close to Ryan said that the only scenario where a Ryan speakership was likely would be if he were to be selected by unanimous acclamation, as opposed to having to bargain with the Freedom Caucus for their support in the same manner that undid McCarthy. This Republican demanded anonymity to discuss private considerations.
So it remained uncertain whether Ryan would accept the savior’s mantle many of his colleagues wanted to give him. If he doesn’t, where they turn next is unclear, though any number of House Republicans appeared to be mulling their own speaker prospects on Friday. For now at least, Boehner, who’d planned to leave Congress Oct. 30, told Republicans he will stay on until a new speaker is selected.
“This institution,” Boehner said, “cannot grind to a halt.”
Associated Press writers Alan Fram, Andrew Taylor, Mary Clare Jalonick, Deb Riechmann and Matt Daly contributed to this report.
Jolted by political lighting for the second time in two weeks, House Republicans are staring at turmoil and uncertainty after Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s astonishing decision to abandon his campaign to become the chamber’s next speaker.
GOP lawmakers, who lately have acted more like feuding relatives than a unified party, were meeting Friday to discuss their next move. On Thursday, Republicans munching barbecue at a closed-door meeting where they seemed ready to coronate McCarthy as their candidate for speaker were aghast when the Californian rose and told them he wouldn’t seek the job.
Facing opposition from a band of hard-right conservatives, some McCarthy supporters said he concluded he would have fallen short of the 218 votes needed when the full House formally elects the speaker. Others said he could have won but GOP lawmakers backing him would have infuriated conservative constituents back home, jeopardizing their own careers.
“It was only going to get worse,” McCarthy said in an interview published Thursday night by The Wall Street Journal. He added, “This was for the good of the team.”
McCarthy’s announcement leaves the race to succeed the departing Speaker John Boehner wide open. The Ohio Republican delivered his own shocker on Sept. 25 when he said he would retire from Congress Oct. 30.
“Two people now have taken themselves out of the running,” said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla. “And I hope we will have candidate who can lift up our party.”
Boehner said he would remain in his job until a new speaker was installed, an ironic consequence considering conservatives’ desire to shove him out the door. That election was set for Oct. 29, but its date is now uncertain.
Attempting to calm the waters, 19 Republicans including several committee chairs wrote GOP lawmakers that they shouldn’t pick a speaker until agreeing on “a shared set of goals and governing vision that benefits the nation and our constituents.”
McCarthy had two rivals for the post, Reps. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Daniel Webster, R-Fla. Neither had broad backing among the House’s 247 Republicans.
Several other potential candidates surfaced. Chief among them was Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the GOP’s 2012 vice presidential pick. Boehner and McCarthy were pressing him to seek the job.
At midday, Ryan, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, said he was uninterested in the top post. With pressure mounting, he later declined to flatly rule out a run.
“I think our conference will come together and unify. We’ll find a way to do it,” he told reporters.
And on Friday, Rep. Darrell Issa said in a nationally broadcast interview, “I think that I can be potentially a candidate.” Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program, Issa said the Freedom Caucus is being unfairly accused of being willing to shut down the government if its members don’t get their way on conservative causes such as stripping Planned Parenthood of its federal funding.
“They’ve been denied by the K. St., if you will, influence,” said Issa of the House conservatives, referring to capital city neighborhood where many lobbyists are based.
The tumult was escalating as the GOP-run Congress hurtled toward showdowns with President Barack Obama over spending and borrowing. If not resolved, those face-offs could result in a partial government shutdown or an unprecedented federal default.
Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., believe either scenario would severely wound GOP prospects in next year’s presidential and congressional elections. Some conservatives seem eager to use the confrontations to dare Obama to veto GOP priorities like cutting government spending and halting federal payments to Planned Parenthood.
After McCarthy revealed his decision to his colleagues — lawmakers said he did so standing beside his wife, Judy — the five-term lawmaker told reporters, “If we are going to be strong, we’ve got to be 100 percent united.”
McCarthy had been strongly opposed by a band of 30 to 40 conservatives called the House Freedom Caucus. They consider him too close to Boehner, whose leadership team had punished some conservatives by removing them from committees.
Underscoring the distrust buffeting the GOP, conservative Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., said he believed the leaders postponed the speaker vote because McCarthy couldn’t win.
“The question in my mind is, are these free and fair elections?” Massie said. “If they don’t have the votes next time, will they postpone it again?”
Other Republicans fired back. Moderate Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., a McCarthy supporter, said he’d predicted that Republicans who forced Boehner’s departure “will try to frag the next guy. That’s what we just saw happen.”
Spotlighting the turbulence, Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Wis., became the second lawmaker in a month to leave the Freedom Caucus. A McCarthy supporter, he said he has “a clear idea of the qualities a leader will need” to unite Republicans. Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., quit in September, complaining that the caucus’ tactics were hurting the GOP.
Speaking to reporters, McCarthy dismissed a suggestion that his decision was related to a letter by conservative Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C. It said leadership candidates should withdraw “if there are any misdeeds he has committed since joining Congress” that would be embarrassing.
Jones said his letter was based on problems of past lawmakers including former Rep. Bob Livingston, R-La., who abandoned a bid to become speaker after admitting to extramarital affairs.
“I have no idea what anybody does up here after 5 o’clock,” Jones told a reporter.
Associated Press writers Erica Werner, Andrew Taylor, Mary Clare Jalonick and Matt Daly contributed to this report.
Confronting insurmountable obstacles, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy suddenly withdrew from the contest for speaker of the U.S. House on Thursday, shocking colleagues just before they were to vote and producing ever-deeper chaos for a divided Congress.
“We need a new face,” McCarthy declared after a closed-door meeting where House Republicans were prepared to nominate him as speaker but instead listened in disbelief as he took himself out of the running. “If we are going to be strong, we’ve got to be 100 percent united.”
Allies said that even though he would certainly have emerged the winner from Thursday’s secret-ballot election of Republicans, McCarthy had concluded he did not have a path to getting the needed 218-vote majority in the full House later this month. A small but determined bloc of conservatives had announced they were opposing him, and they commanded enough votes to block him on the floor.
These same lawmakers, members of the hardline House Freedom Caucus, pushed outgoing Speaker John Boehner to announce his resignation just two weeks ago by threatening a floor vote on his speakership. Some of them cheered the announcement by Boehner’s No. 2.
“The establishment has lost two speakers in two weeks. K Street must be shaking in their boots. Mitch McConnell must be shaking in his boots, too,” said Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, naming the Republican majority leader of the Senate.
One immediate impact, however, might be to prolong Boehner’s tenure. The Ohio Republican, who had intended to leave Oct. 30, said he would stay on “until the House votes to elect a new speaker.”
The man most widely seen as a potential speaker in McCarthy’s place immediately ruled it out.
“While I am grateful for the encouragement I’ve received, I will not be a candidate,” said Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the former vice presidential nominee who now chairs the Ways and Means Committee. But Ryan was under intense pressure to reconsider, including from Boehner and McCarthy himself.
“I would hope he would” run, McCarthy said of Ryan.
Establishment-minded Republicans expressed bitter frustration at the sway of the Freedom Caucus at a time when Republicans command their largest House majority in 80 years. And stark uncertainty lies ahead as lawmakers question how any candidate backed by mainstream Republicans will be able to prevail in the House.
It all comes with Congress in desperate need of steady leadership as major fiscal and budgetary deadlines loom, starting with the need to raise the government’s debt limit to avoid a market-shattering default in a month’s time.
“This is unprecedented to have a small group, a tiny minority, hijack the party and blackmail the House,” said Rep. Peter King of New York.
McCarthy might have been able to eke out a win, but he said that’s not how he wanted to become speaker. It’s now unknown when the House GOP election will occur, and in doubt as to whether a scheduled Oct. 29 floor vote by both Democrats and Republicans will go forward.
McCarthy’s two announced GOP rivals for speaker — Reps. Jason Chaffetz of Utah and Daniel Webster of Florida — lack widespread support in the House GOP, although Webster has the backing of the Freedom Caucus, whose members dismissed McCarthy as a clone of Boehner.
Numerous other names began to surface of possible candidates, and lawmakers were openly discussing the possibility of elevating a “caretaker” speaker to serve for a short time.
“You understand it could be a quick end to your political career,” remarked Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., one of those discussed. He held up his cellphone to show calls coming in from McCarthy.
The Republicans’ noontime meeting was adjourned moments after it began with McCarthy making his jaw-dropping announcement as his wife and kids looked on.
“Disbelief, from the surprise announcement by Boehner to the quick nature of this election to it now being postponed — it’s uncertainty on top of uncertainty,” said freshman Rep. Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania. “I’ve been here nine months, I’ve never seen anything like this. I’d bet you most other members who have been here 20 or 30 years would say the same thing.”
Several Republicans were crying after McCarthy’s announcement, lawmakers at the meeting said.
Underscoring the tumult, Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Wis., became the second lawmaker in a month to quit the Freedom Caucus.
Ribble, a McCarthy supporter, said in a statement that he has “a clear idea of the qualities a leader will need” to unite Republicans. Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., quit in September, complaining that the caucus’ tactics were backfiring and hurting the GOP.
Despite the pandemonium, the business of government continued, with committees holding hearings and the House convening to vote on a piece of energy legislation that passed on a largely party-line vote.
McCarthy, a 50-year-old from Bakersfield, California, in his fifth term in the House, is personable and friendly, popular with fellow lawmakers and known for his political acumen, if not his policy depth.
But his candidacy for speaker had gotten off to a rough start with a gaffe when he suggested the House’s Benghazi committee was set up to drive down Hillary Rodham Clinton’s poll numbers rather than search for the truth about the 2012 attacks in Libya that killed four Americans. He was roundly criticized and quickly backtracked, but the flub dogged him, giving ammunition to Democrats to discredit the committee ahead of Clinton’s appearance Oct. 22 to testify.
Thursday morning, at a closed-door GOP candidate forum ahead of the elections, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California, a natural McCarthy ally, stood up and told McCarthy that he wouldn’t be able to support him because of that comment, people present said.
McCarthy brushed off a suggestion that his decision had anything to do with a letter circulated earlier this week by Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., asserting that any candidate for leadership should withdraw from contention “if there are any misdeeds he has committed since joining Congress that will embarrass himself, the Republican Conference and the House of Representatives if they become public.”
Jones has said the letter wasn’t directed at anyone in particular. Asked whether it played a role in his decision McCarthy said: “Nah.”
But the episode evoked memories of the shocking moment in December 1998, when Rep. Bob Livingston, R-La., astonished Washington by suddenly dropping his bid to replace Newt Gingrich as speaker. Livingston was the heavy favorite, but had been dogged by allegations that he had been unfaithful to his wife.
Livingston’s announcement came as the House was debating President Bill Clinton’s impeachment with its roots in Clinton’s own infidelities.
Associated Press writers Andrew Taylor, Mary Clare Jalonick and Alan Fram contributed to this report.
Speaker John Boehner on Monday scheduled the House election to replace him for Oct. 29 and delayed votes for lower-level posts until after that — a move widely seen as benefiting his preferred successor, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
House Republicans, reeling and divided in the aftermath of Boehner’s resignation last month, had planned to vote Thursday by secret ballot for a new leadership team. But a number of members wanted more time to weigh their options and pursue rule changes.
Under the new plan, Thursday’s vote by Republican members will only involve their nominee for speaker. That will be followed by a floor vote in the full House on Oct. 29.
It will then be up to the new speaker to set an elections date for lower-level GOP posts from majority leader on down. The speaker is the only job in the House that’s voted on by members of both parties in open session; the other jobs are selected internally by the party caucuses.
“This new process will ensure House Republicans have a strong, unified team to lead our conference and focus on the American people’s priorities,” Boehner said in a statement.
But the change may also help McCarthy, who is working to lock up support to become speaker but facing an unexpected challenge from Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
McCarthy is the heavy favorite to prevail in the secret-ballot election Thursday, but the outcome on the floor is less certain because of potential opposition from the same 30-plus hard-line conservatives who pushed Boehner out.
The new process could allow McCarthy to lock up the nomination for speaker and give conservatives more time to potentially rally around one of their own for one of the lesser jobs.
Boehner’s announcement on the timing of the elections came amid ongoing turmoil in the House GOP and as Chaffetz presented himself as a new face who can unite the House.
“If we don’t inject new blood into the leadership team, our constituents are going to be irate at best,” Chaffetz told reporters on Capitol Hill Monday. “There’s a massive drumbeat out there that the status quo is not what we sent you there to perpetuate. This is a national wave, it’s not something that was driven by Jason Chaffetz. I’m just someone who was smart enough to recognize it and try to get ahead of it.”
Chaffetz, 48, has used his committee chairmanship to launch high-profile investigations of the Secret Service, Planned Parenthood and other issues. He said he had not planned to run for speaker but was recruited by Republicans — he would not name them — looking for a fresh face rather than a continuation of existing leadership.
In the days immediately following Boehner’s resignation, McCarthy was viewed as the presumptive favorite to replace the outgoing speaker. But that dynamic began to shift, particularly following McCarthy’s gaffe last week suggesting that the purpose of a special House committee investigating the deadly 2012 attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, was to drive down Hillary Rodham Clinton’s poll numbers. Clinton, secretary of state at that time, is now the front-runner for the Democratic nomination for president.
McCarthy retracted the comment and said he regrets it, but it’s given a potent weapon to Democrats ahead of a high-profile Oct. 22 appearance by Clinton before the committee.
McCarthy could lose 29 Republicans and still come out with majority support on the floor, but so far he has not claimed he has the needed 218 votes. But Chaffetz’ ability to get 218 votes in the House seems even less certain.
That suggests ongoing tumult in the weeks leading to the floor vote, even as Congress is confronting a weighty to-do list, starting with raising the government’s borrowing limit in early November.
This story has been corrected to say the full House vote for speaker will be held Oct. 29, rather than Thursday.
House Republican turmoil is boiling over as leadership elections approach, with dissatisfied lawmakers casting about for new choices and a surprise longshot challenger emerging in the speaker’s race.
The upheaval reflects a caucus ever more divided in the week since House Speaker John Boehner stunned Capitol Hill by resigning under conservative pressure. And it comes as a long list of weighty and polarizing issues loom on Congress’ agenda, including raising the federal borrowing limit to avoid a market-shattering default, and paying the bills to keep the government running.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, the brash 48-year-old chairman of the high-profile House oversight committee, intends to challenge the prohibitive favorite for speaker, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, Republican aides said Friday. Yet it’s not clear that the hardliners who ousted Boehner and view McCarthy with suspicion would flock to Chaffetz, given that as committee chairman he’s enforced leadership initiatives such as punishing lawmakers who buck the party position.
“It would be hard to replace John Boehner with someone who also kicks people off committees for their votes,” sniped Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., who is backing another candidate, Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Fla.
That raises the prospect of more unrest — and potentially even more candidates — before votes for the new leadership team are cast Oct. 8.
“Until we decide that we’re going to function as a team instead of as a series of groups trying to enforce their agenda on the majority of the House, then we’re going to have this treadmill kind of a thing where we’re just walking faster and faster but not actually physically moving,” said Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla.
The well-liked McCarthy has been endorsed by Boehner, but some of the hardline conservatives who forced Boehner out immediately questioned whether his leadership would be any different. Their concerns were compounded when, a day after announcing his candidacy for speaker, McCarthy boasted that the House Benghazi committee can take credit for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s slipping poll numbers.
McCarthy backtracked, but it took him two days and the gaffe allowed Democrats to claim that the committee is a political witch hunt — not a fact-finding mission into the deaths of four Americans at the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, as Republicans had long asserted.
Chaffetz was one of the loudest critics of McCarthy’s comments on Benghazi, publicly calling on McCarthy to apologize for “a total mischaracterization” of the committee’s work.
He’s now converting that sentiment into a challenge against McCarthy for speaker, according to three Republican aides with knowledge of the situation who demanded anonymity to confirm Chaffetz’s plans ahead of an announcement. Chaffetz’ office did not respond to requests for comment, but the congressman is to appear on “Fox News Sunday” to discuss his plans.
Chaffetz has led high-profile investigations into the Secret Service, Planned Parenthood and other issues, but he is unlikely to outmaneuver McCarthy for the speaker’s job. Republicans of all ideologies, especially hardline conservatives, are plainly dissatisfied with their choices for the leadership jobs with public approval of Congress at rock bottom and voters demanding results in challenges to President Barack Obama.
The two candidates for majority leader to replace McCarthy — House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price of Georgia — also are established figures who don’t meet some lawmakers’ desire for a new direction. Yet Republicans in Congress are short on dynamic, broadly popular and experienced leaders who could move naturally into the top jobs. Some of those who exist — like Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin — have opted against running for leadership.
In all likelihood McCarthy will be the next speaker and Scalise or Price the next majority leader of the House, putting new faces in Congress’ top jobs but perhaps doing little to correct the institution’s overall dysfunction.
“Some faceless bureaucrat has more legislative authority than the entire United States Congress,” said hardline Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, who is hoping more choices emerge for the top jobs. “That’s the situation we’re in and we need to put that back in order, and we need a speaker and majority leader that will collaborate on a plan to do that.”
Associated Press writers Alan Fram, Mary Clare Jalonick and Matthew Daly contributed to this report.
Speaker John Boehner says he’s determined to clean up some of the mess of a politically gridlocked Congress in his final month before his successor takes over the House.
The Ohio Republican says a spending bill to keep the government running will pass and there will be no shutdown when money runs out at midnight Wednesday. Beyond that, he said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday he expects “I might have a little more cooperation from some around town to try to get as much finished as possible.”
“I don’t want to leave my successor a dirty barn,” he said. Among issues still to be settled: a transportation bill, tax breaks and whether to raise the government’s debt limit.
The interview was Boehner’s first after announcing Friday that he would resign from Congress at the end of October. The timing, he said, was clarified after spending the day with Pope Francis and designed to help avert a government shutdown. But even as he looked forward, Boehner harked back to the faction of his party that he ultimately could not control.
Boehner unloaded against conservatives long outraged that even with control of both houses of Congress, Republicans have not succeeded on key agenda items, such as repealing President Barack Obama’s health care law and striking taxpayer funding from Planned Parenthood. He refused to back down from calling one of the tea party-styled leaders, presidential candidate and Sen. Ted Cruz, a “jackass.”
“Absolutely they’re unrealistic,” Boehner said. “The Bible says, ‘Beware of false prophets.’ And there are people out there spreading noise about how much can get done.”
Boehner’s resignation announcement Friday stunned Washington but was long in the making after years of turmoil with the same House conservatives who propelled the GOP into the House majority on a tea party-style, cut-it-or-shut it platform. Without Boehner, the job of leading divided congressional Republicans falls more heavily on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — who declared nearly a year ago that the GOP’s prospects of reclaiming the White House depends substantially on showing the party can govern.
McConnell is also a target of some rebellious conservatives. But Senate veteran John McCain, R-Ariz., said Monday the overwhelming majority of his colleagues would oppose ousting McConnell. “There’s no chance of that happening,” McCain told MSNBC.
Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, a longtime Boehner ally in the Republican leadership, said those clamoring for another shutdown this week or later this year would jeopardize the party’s chances of winning the presidency.
“We have the very same people who led us to disaster in 2013 telling us to do the same thing,” Cole said Monday on MSNBC. “Government shutdowns never work.”
Boehner’s resignation announcement rippled through the slate of 2016 presidential candidates competing for support among the GOP’s core Republicans. As Boehner let out the word to House Republicans Friday morning, GOP presidential hopeful Sen. Marco Rubio relayed the news to a conference of conservatives — who erupted in triumphant hoots. Rubio, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina were among the GOP candidates who said Boehner’s departure showed it was time for the party to move on.
Fiorina suggested that McConnell’s leadership, too, has been unsatisfactory.
“I hope now that we will move on and have leadership in both the House and the Senate that will produce results,” Fiorina said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
But former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush called Boehner “a great public servant.”
“I think people are going to miss him in the long run, because he’s a person that is focused on solving problems,” Bush said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a former member of Congress and a 2016 presidential candidate, said of the politicians complaining that nothing is getting done: “Maybe they ought to look in the mirror.”
“What have they accomplished?” he said. “I mean are they just speechmakers? Are they just people out there yelling and screaming?”
Boehner’s resignation announcement came as congressional Republicans faced a familiar standoff in their own ranks over whether to insist on their demands in exchange for passage of a federal budget — the same dynamic that led to the partial government shutdown of 2013. For nearly a year, McConnell, now the Senate’s Republican majority leader, has insisted there would be no repeat, even as conservatives dug in.
“We told people to give us the Senate and things would be different. We told them back in 2010, give us the House and things will be different,” said Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-N.C., on “Fox News Sunday.” ”Things are not that different.”
Retorted Boehner on CBS:
“We have got groups here in town, members of the House and Senate here in town, who whip people into a frenzy believing they can accomplish things that they know — they know — are never going to happen.”
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