Jason Chaffetz

Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah, at a hearing last week, hopes to benefit from a push for new leadership in the House. (Stephen Crowley/The New York Times)

By Jennifer Steinhauer
October 5, 2015

WASHINGTON — Representative Jason Chaffetz, Republican of Utah, said Monday that he presumed that Representative Kevin McCarthy would be nominated as his party’s candidate for House speaker, but would fall short of the votes needed when all lawmakers cast ballots to replace John A. Boehner.

“I am not telling anyone to change their vote for Kevin,” Mr. Chaffetz said during an interview in his Capitol Hill office, where a list of Republican lawmakers and their cellphone numbers sat on his desk. But, he said, “I say I hope they can find me a viable alternative when he can’t get to 218,” referring to the number of votes required to become the speaker.

Mr. Chaffetz said he informed Mr. McCarthy of his intentions on Friday morning at a fund-raiser they attended together, adding that his interest was nothing personal. “He was none too happy,” Mr. Chaffetz said. “I am very good friends with Kevin. I hope this ends up a positive experience for him and me.”

In a tacit recognition of Mr. McCarthy’s troubles, Mr. Boehner announced Monday that the entire House would select his replacement on Oct. 29 and that all other openings in the House Republican leadership would be filled after that vote.

The new schedule is a pronounced shift from plans to choose a Republican candidate for speaker and possibly a new majority leader and party whip, the No. 3 position, on Thursday. Should Mr. McCarthy fail to secure the speaker’s job, the change in election dates could allow him to maintain his current job as majority leader.

“This new process will ensure House Republicans have a strong, unified team to lead our conference and focus on the American people’s priorities,” Mr. Boehner said in a statement.

A week ago, Mr. McCarthy seemed all but certain to get the job after Mr. Boehner announced that he would leave Congress at the end of the month.

But he is facing challenges from his Republican colleagues on two fronts. Many were sharply critical of his suggestion last week that a congressional committee investigating the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012 was politically motivated. And some lawmakers on the far right are not convinced that Mr. McCarthy would be enough of a change from Mr. Boehner.

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