The simmering feuds within the House Republican Conference that we warned earlier today (see SGH 10/8/15, “Capitol Hill: The Speaker Vote, and the Debt Ceiling”) were complicating Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s bid to be his party’s nominee as Speaker just blew out into the open with McCarthy pulling out of the leadership election that was just about to get underway. Speaker Boehner was forced to cancel the elections until an unspecified later date.
McCarthy pulled out barely minutes ahead of the final vote tally to avoid the harsh reality he was coming far short of the 218 threshold needed to show GOP unity behind his nomination. Crucially, he not only looked unlikely to win any votes from the far right Freedom Caucus dissidents, but many mainstream Republicans were also wavering on their support.
Senior Republican officials already reached out to Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan to step into the enormous political vacuum to allow his name to be put forward as a nominee as Speaker.
Ryan has so far consistently refused, saying he is not interested in the job, and has already flatly stated he is not interested. The problem is no one among the mainstream GOP House Conference wants the job either. It may mean Boehner will probably stay in his position as Speaker beyond his intended exit on October 30.
Until or unless a solution is rapidly found within the GOP Conference, the Republican turmoil will mean near total legislative paralysis on Capitol Hill. We would also warn that the GOP turmoil starkly elevates the risks in the political difficulties in raising the federal debt ceiling or offering a fiscal policy response if the US economic growth is threatening to slow below trend.