CAPITOL HILL - California Republican Kevin McCarthy has announced his bid to be the next Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.
“I am running for Speaker to work with my colleagues and make the case to the American people for conservative principles,” McCarthy wrote to his fellow Republican representatives and tweeted to the world on Monday. "We can’t ignore the differences that exist, but we can and must heal the divisions in our conference.”
With that, he might be said to be wading right in since former speaker John Boehner announced his resignation only three days earlier on Friday, in part over criticism that he did not fight hard enough for conservative principles.
In fact, Boehner was facing a challenge to his leadership from the conservative House Freedom Caucus wing of his own Republican caucus.
The 50-year-old McCarthy was often seen standing behind Boehner in his role as majority leader, a leadership position just behind speaker. He is viewed as a more pragmatic conservative Republican, like Boehner, but he has cultivated relationships with members of the House Freedom Caucus.
He is widely expected to win the speakership which will be voted on by the entire House. But questions have been raised about his ability to lead with a fractious right wing.
“The Republican House is in a sad state,” bemoaned Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada on the floor of the senate Monday. “Last week the far right showed that it can depose the speaker, and it has emerged more powerful than ever, more outspoken than ever.”
McCarthy is a fifth-term congressman who has spent nine years in the House.
Having grown up in a family of democrats in Bakersfield, California, at 19 he was attending junior college when he won $5,000 in a lottery and bought a delicatessen.
McCarthy has said that experience is what prompted him to become conservative: when he discovered how many federal government regulations he had to comply with in order to run a business. He later sold the deli and returned to school.
“I am running to be your Speaker because I know that the People’s House works best when the leadership you elect listens to Members and respects the legislative process,” wrote McCarthy, who has a reputation for being a good listener, in his announcement letter.
The turmoil in the House comes as a current funding measure for the federal government expires on October 1. Now that Boehner is leaving, analysts say it is likely that House Republicans will approve a short-term, two-month spending bill to avert a partial shutdown, with the help of votes from House Democrats — kicking controversy differences over long-term spending decisions down the road.
“The House will hold leadership elections in coming days,” Senator Reid continued. “I hope they elect some sensible leaders. I am concerned that even those Republican leaders previously inclined to work for compromise have already lost the courage to stand up to the far-right when it matters most."
Molly McKitterick and Michael Bowman contributed to this report.