Congressman Kevin McCarthy, the Republican Majority Leader who was widely expected to be the next Speaker of the House, abruptly withdrew his candidacy on Thursday.
The news leaves the House Republicans, and Congress in general, in a state of disarray. It is unclear whom Republicans will be able to elect as speaker. John Boehner has announced his resignation and the House cannot operate without a speaker. The election for the next speaker has been postponed indefinitely.
The government is facing a number of critical deadlines that will need a functioning House. According the Treasury Department, the country will need to raise the debt limit by November 5 or risk defaulting on its obligations. Funding for the government as a whole expires on December 11, setting up the possibility for a government shutdown.
McCarthy was criticized for his recent comments on the congressional committee investigating Benghazi, bragging that it had been successful in driving down Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers.
Yesterday the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus announced they would not support McCarthy, effectively denying him the support he needed within the Republican caucus.
Paul Ryan, seen as the one figure who could unite the Republican Party, reiterated that he was not interested after McCarthy’s announcement:
I will not be a candidate for Speaker. I continue to believe I can best serve the country & this conference as Chairman of the Ways & Means.
— Paul Ryan (@PRyan) October 8, 2015
Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Daniel Webster (R-FL) are also running but are not seen as having broad support.
This is a developing story and will be updated as new information becomes available.