Breaking news out of Capitol Hill: House majority leader Kevin McCarthy has withdrawn from the speaker race and the election will be postponed:
Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has dropped out of elections for House Speaker, shocking Capitol Hill and raising questions about who can possibly lead the House Republican conference.
Republicans were to meet Thursday at noon to elect a new Speaker. Instead, they received the surprising news from McCarthy.
McCarthy had struggled to win over conservatives, and while he was the favorite to win the closed-door vote, he did not have the votes on the floor to win election.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.), the fourth-ranking GOP member, banged the gavel and dismissed the GOP conference after McCarthy dropped his bombshell behind closed doors.
This post will be updated as news develops.
UPDATE: McCarthy had the following to say about why he dropped out of the race:
“If we’re going to be strong, we need to be united,” McCarthy said at a news conference after his announcement, a reference to opposition from conservatives to elevating the centrist Californian to the top leadership post. He said the GOP needs a “new face” and added that he did not want to win the job by squeaking by with “220 votes”; he would have needed 218 votes on the House floor.
McCarthy also acknowledged that his remarks last week that the GOP-created Benghazi Committee damaged Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers were not helpful to his cause. Clinton seized on the remarks, and a number of Republicans called on him to apologize.
“I could have said it much better,” McCarthy said at the news conference.
It looks like the House Freedom Caucus’ strategy worked.
Despite McCarthy’s insistence against “squeaking by,” he was one of the only lawmakers in the chamber seen as capable of garnering the necessary 218 votes. Republicans will now need to scramble to look for another candidate, as John Boehner intends to step down at the end of October.
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