WASHINGTON – House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy has abruptly pulled out of the race for Speaker of the House on the same day that he was widely expected to be nominated for the position.
The nominating contest in the GOP conference set for Thursday afternoon in the House has been postponed.
It was not clear why McCarthy, who was viewed as the likely successor to outgoing speaker John Boehner, unexpectedly exited the contest.
He faced opposition in Thursday’s nomination race from House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz of Utah and Rep. Daniel Webster of Florid, but he was widely expected to defeat both rivals.
McCarthy, a Republican from California and the current number two in House leadership, had come under fire in recent days for his comments on television suggesting that the House Select Committee on Benghazi was politically charged and created for the purpose of derailing Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
He has since apologized for the remarks, saying that the committee is not political in nature.
His comments, which gave Clinton a potent talking point just weeks before her high-stakes appearance before the Benghazi panel, fueled some concerns that McCarthy is not ready for the job. But much more problematic for McCarthy had been resistance from conservatives in the House, who say that McCarthy – like Boehner – is unwilling to fight the Obama administration to achieve the goals of hard-liners, which include a complete defunding of Planned Parenthood.