U.S. House of Representatives

The last-minute move underscores frustration among some members of the Republican Conference with the current choices.


By Rachael Bade and John Bresnahan
10/02/15 – 01:46 PM EDT

House Oversight and Government Affairs Chairman Jason Chaffetz is planning to run for House speaker, taking on Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy in what appears to be a long-shot bid to lead House Republicans, according to multiple sources.

The Utah Republican, first elected to Congress in 2008, is launching a campaign less than a week before the Oct. 8 leadership elections for the House GOP Conference. The date for a floor vote to pick the next speaker has not been set yet, but Thursday’s conference vote will name the party’s top contender for the post.

McCarthy (R-Calif.) is the overwhelming favorite to win, and it’s unclear at this time how many votes Chaffetz can garner.

But Chaffetz’s bid could throw a wrench into the process. Some lawmakers have privately questioned whether McCarthy is a strong enough leader to unify an increasingly divided and unwieldy GOP caucus. Others on the far right want someone who’s more conservative.

Still, it’s a risky move for Chaffetz. Defectors who voted against Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in past elections were stripped of prized committee posts. Though anyone is free to run against McCarthy — it’s different than taking on an incumbent speaker — Chaffetz’s decision complicates McCarthy’s path and could drive a wedge between the two.

Chaffetz’s office would not comment, but sources say he started reaching out to lawmakers Friday to notify them and gauge support.

The decision appears to be last-minute. Just two days ago, Chaffetz said on TV that he planned to back McCarthy.

“Do you support him as the speaker?” CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Chaffetz.

“I do, yeah,” Chaffetz replied.

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