By Scott Wong and Bernie Becker - 10/09/15 11:29 AM EDT
House conservatives accused Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerCameras go dark during House Democrats' sit-in Rubio flies with Obama on Air Force One to Orlando Juan Williams: The capitulation of Paul Ryan MORE (R-Ohio) Friday of acting like a dictator by delaying the election for his successor because his favored candidate, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), suddenly dropped out of the race.
Reps. Tom Rice (R-S.C.) and Louie GohmertLouie GohmertGOP rep: Democrats trying to 'take away people’s civil rights' House gun control sit-in stretches into second day GOP rep confronts sit-in Dems in fiery exchange MORE (R-Texas) stood up during Friday’s closed-door GOP conference meeting and confronted BoehnerJohn BoehnerCameras go dark during House Democrats' sit-in Rubio flies with Obama on Air Force One to Orlando Juan Williams: The capitulation of Paul Ryan MORE about his decision to postpone Thursday’s election immediately after McCarthy’s shocking announcement, according to sources in the room
Boehner spokeswoman Emily Schillinger said the Speaker was well within the conference rules to ask that the elections be delayed. “He made a motion to adjourn the conference meeting, and no member objected,” she said in an email.
But Rice reportedly argued that the Speaker and his leadership team would not have delayed the election and quickly gaveled Thursday’s meeting to such an abrupt end if one of McCarthy’s rivals, such as Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.), had said he was dropping out of the race, the sources said.
“He basically challenged the Speaker’s authority to end the meeting,” said one Boehner ally in the room. Boehner made the motion to adjourn Thursday, and Conference GOP Chairwoman Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersGOP campaign chief: Turn up the heat on Clinton GOP rep: Ryan's agenda to restore representative government Restoring the VA's promise to veterans MORE (R-Wash.) quickly banged the gavel, leaving lawmakers stunned and confused.
Rice “is complaining on behalf of himself and others that some rules were violated,” the lawmaker added. “I have sympathy that a lot of big things don’t get discussed by enough people to at least take that argument off the table.”
Boehner told Rice that it would have been ill-advised to move forward with the election given the disarray, sources said, and a majority of the conference erupted in applause agreeing with the Speaker’s remarks.
“I was as shocked as you were about Kevin’s announcement yesterday,” Boehner told his colleagues in the private meeting, sources said. “To allow the shock to wear off a bit, I believed it was in the best interests of everyone here to delay the conference election for Speaker.”
Rice and Gohmert weren’t the only ones griping to leadership. After Friday’s meeting, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) was also furious at Boehner, saying the Speaker "called off the election because he didn't like the result."
"What's this tell the American people? It looks like a banana republic here," Massie told reporters. "If your man doesn't win the GOP primary in a presidential race, are you going to reopen the filing date and move the election?"
"That's essentially what they did," he added. "That was disgusting."
Massied pointedly told reporters, according to the Washington Examiner, that a motion to vacate that would remove Boehner as Speaker could still be brought to the floor. Conservatives had considered moving such a motion before Boehner's own decision to resign as Speaker last month.
“The motion to vacate is still in the hopper, it still has five sponsors and it can still be brought to the floor for a vote within two days,” Massie said.
Minutes before the vote for Speaker Thursday, McCarthy told his colleagues he didn't have enough support on the House floor and was bowing out of the race. Boehner, who announced last month he planned to resign from Congress Oct. 30, told rank-and-file members Friday that he would stay on as Speaker until the conference can unify around a successor, people in the room said.
House lawmakers will head home Friday for a previously scheduled weeklong recess, when they'll be challenged by constituents to explain this week's chaos in the Capitol.
So far, Republicans say Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul RyanPaul RyanRangel: Trump puts Ryan in tough spot Dems find voice with disruption Democrats plan 'day of action' to keep spotlight on guns MORE (R-Wis.) is the only person who can bring the warring factions of the GOP together, but he’s repeatedly said he’s not interested in the job.
“Paul Ryan is the person who needs to do it. We just got to wait on him to make a decision,” said Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.), who himself is looking at the Speaker’s race if Ryan takes a pass.
— This story was updated at 1:41 p.m.
Bradford Richardson contributed.