The Corner

Politics & Policy

‘Sometimes You Have to Hit Rock Bottom’

In a phone interview, Kevin McCarthy said he had thought about dropping out over the last week after the Benghazi gaffe, but figured, “I’d push through.” He realized he couldn’t. The House Freedom Caucus, whose members he’d need to pick off to get to 218 on the House floor, had gone into “lockdown” and “wanted things I couldn’t deliver.” He realized, “I wouldn’t have enjoyed being Speaker this way.” Also, he had begun to get calls over the weekend from members who were hearing complaints about him in their districts — a bad sign. “I didn’t want to put them through a tough vote,” he says. He considered floating an arrangement today where he’d ask members in the conference to vote the way they’d vote on the floor, and if he couldn’t get to 218, stepping aside. But instead he just made his shocking announcement. It’s not clear who will pick up the pieces. He says, “I personally want Paul Ryan.” There’s been some speculation about the necessity of a bi-partisan coalition to elect a new Speaker, which he rejects. “We’ll find a Republican.” How, no one knows at the moment. Asked if the House is governable, he says, “I don’t know. Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom.”

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