Politics & Policy

Boehner Sets Speaker’s Race, Delays Other Elections

House Speaker John Boehner (Getty Images)

Outgoing House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) has scheduled the vote to replace him for the end of October and, in a blow to his lieutenants, delayed any ensuing leadership elections until after he steps down.

Boehner announced that the formal Speaker’s vote will take place on October 29; if House majority leader Kevin McCarthy wins, he would vacate his current post and schedule another election to replace him. “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 Monday statement.

The leadership elections were originally scheduled for October 8, when House Republicans would meet to pick the nominees for speaker and the rest of the leadership team. As it is, they will vote only for the speaker. A group of House Republicans, including some of the lawmakers who precipitated Boehner’s exit, requested the delay in a letter over the weekend.

“The current Rules dictate such elections would be premature until another leadership office is vacated by the office holder,” House Freedom Caucus chairman Jim Jordan (R., Ohio), Representative Mick Mulvaney (R., S.C.), Representative Peter Roskam (R., Ill.) and Representative Jim Rennaci (R., Ohio) wrote to House Republican Conference chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R., Wash.)

#share#The move could complicate the path to victory for leadership candidates such as House majority whip Steve Scalise. The Louisiana Republican told supporters in a conference call Sunday evening that he has identified 140 Republicans who will vote to install him as the majority leader — well over the 124 needed to win. But a delay of the race could increase the possibility of House Budget Committee chairman Tom Price, or even a later entrant to the race, to pick off some of his backers. And if Scalise fails to move up the ladder, then House Deputy Whip Patrick McHenry (R., N.C.) and House Rules Committee chairman Pete Sessions (R., Texas), the leading contenders to succeed him as whip, will not have an opportunity to win a promotion.

#related#House Freedom Caucus members think the delay of the majority leader’s race could hamper McCarthy as well, by acknowledging that, no matter what happens in the GOP conference vote next week, he hasn’t won the speaker’s gavel until a majority of lawmakers back him on the House floor. “We need a speaker who can get not merely 218 but 246 [votes],” says one HFC member. “There is too much widespread concern about Kevin [McCarthy].”

On the other hand, a vote on the full slate of leadership races next week could have resulted in all of Boehner’s lieutenants winning quick victories, which might have caused conservative House Republicans to come under more pressure from voters who want a new face in leadership to vote against McCarthy on the House floor. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Jason Chaffetz (R., Utah) announced over the weekend that he would challenge McCarthy for speaker.

— Joel Gehrke is a political reporter for National Review.

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