Republican: ‘Very real’ chance GOP will need Dems to elect Speaker

Greg Nash

Republicans may be forced to solicit Democratic help to break their Speaker stalemate, Rep. Charlie Dent (R) said Thursday.

The Pennsylvania centrist, who often serves as a mouthpiece for outgoing Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), said there is only a small handful of Republicans who can win 218 GOP votes to fill Boehner’s shoes. The trouble is, none of them wants the job.

{mosads}“We may need a bipartisan coalition to elect our next Speaker,” Dent told reporters after Thursday’s closed-door GOP meeting. “That’s a very real possibility right now, and I think anybody who’s honest about this knows it. They may not want to talk about it, but they know it.”

Republicans are scrambling in search of a new Speaker after Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the majority leader and heavy favorite to replace Boehner, abruptly dropped out of the contest Thursday, citing concerns that his candidacy was fracturing an already divided conference.

Dent predicted McCarthy would have easily won the 124 votes needed to win the GOP nomination against two other contenders, Reps. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.) and Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah). But with a vote of the full House scheduled for Oct. 29 — and with the 40-member Freedom Caucus endorsing Webster — there was growing concern that McCarthy wouldn’t have had the 218 votes needed to secure the gavel.

“Kevin had a strong majority of support in that room today. No question about it, he was going to walk out the winner,” Dent said. “[But] I don’t believe he had 218 votes. … The question was did he have 180, 190, 200 or 210? I don’t know what he had, but something in that range — 180 to 210. And I think what he was concerned about, and what we’ve all been concerned about is if we went to the House floor for a Speaker election and he failed to receive 218 votes, that would be very embarrassing and humiliating. 

“I suspect that might have been the dynamic [that forced him out].”

With McCarthy relegated to keeping his majority leader spot, the race is on to find a Speaker candidate who can bridge the ideological divide between centrist Republicans who have championed bipartisan compromise and a conservative wing that’s long accused GOP leaders of caving too quickly to President Obama’s demands.

Dent named two he thinks could win the support of 218 Republicans: Reps. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Tom Cole (R-Okla.). But neither lawmaker wants the promotion.

“While I am grateful for the encouragement I’ve received, I will not be a candidate,” Ryan said Thursday in a statement.

Noting that Republicans have often had to reach across the aisle for Democratic help on major legislation, Dent said they might have to swallow their pride and adopt a similar strategy to name a new Speaker.

“I can’t tell you who can get 218 Republican votes,” he said. “I just mentioned a moment ago that it’s clear to me we need bipartisan coalitions to pass a lot of important bills around here. We may need a bipartisan coalition to elect our next Speaker.”

The strategy isn’t likely to gain steam for several reasons. 

First, a bipartisan vote on a new Speaker would all but ensure the wrath of the same conservatives who toppled Boehner with accusations he worked too closely with Democrats. 

It’s also not clear whether Democrats would cooperate.

The office of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that Republicans are on their own to fill Boehner’s spot.

“It’s up to House Republicans to choose the next Speaker,” spokesman Drew Hammill said.

Pelosi, for her part, predicted the Republicans will eventually locate their leader.

“It’s a great job. It has great opportunity, and I’m sure they’ll find somebody who is capable of accepting the honor,” Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol, according to her office.

Tags Charlie Dent John Boehner Kevin McCarthy Nancy Pelosi Paul Ryan
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