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Kevin McCarthy Is Out For House Speaker. Who Else Wants It?

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 8/10/2015 Jennifer Bendery

WASHINGTON -- House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) stunned everyone Thursday by dropping out of the race for speaker. Now, the question is: Who's next in line to run the House and assume the third-most powerful position in the country?

Nobody knows.

Republicans shell-shocked by McCarthy's last-minute decision to pull out of the race threw out a handful of names of people they think should run. Some of those people already had plans to go up against McCarthy, but were considered long shots and don't have overwhelming support in the GOP conference.

One of them is Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who said McCarthy's exit creates an opening for him to win.

"Yeah, I think so," he said. "I don't know if I'm the right person. I put my name in the hat because I do want to unite this party internally."

Chaffetz is chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee and has presided over hearings investigating Planned Parenthood and Hillary Clinton's link to the 2012 Benghazi attack -- both issues that Democrats say are politically motivated.

He also sleeps in his office every night, on a cot.

Flanked by reporters on Thursday, the Utah Republican said whatever happens in the speaker race, he will endorse whoever wins. He also encouraged others to jump in.

"The conference needs to have a variety of choices. I think that's a healthy process," Chaffetz said. "We need to have a family discussion, but I do think there should be a variety of choices, yes."

The only other Republican in line is Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.). He's got the endorsement of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of about 40 conservative members.

"Obviously, I think Daniel Webster becomes the frontrunner," said Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kansas), a member of the caucus. "We operate as a group in House Freedom Caucus."

"Could be," Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) said of a possible Speaker Webster.

Webster ran against Boehner for speaker in January. He got 12 votes.

It's anyone's guess who else might run. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) suggested he might be open to it. Some Republicans are apparently trying to recruit former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. (You don't have to be a House member to run for speaker.)

Some lawmakers are definitely not interested in the job.

"No," said Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), chairman of the Appropriations Committee.

“While I am grateful for the encouragement I’ve received, I will not be a candidate,” Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the Budget Committee, said in a statement.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who has been planning to resign at the end of the month, said he'll stick around until someone replaces him. Based on the chaos in his conference, he may end up stuck in Washington longer than he wanted.

"The question is, who's going to be the next person to step up?" said Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.). "I suspect at some point, if we can't get 218 Republicans to vote for a speaker candidate, we'll have to assemble a bipartisan coalition to elect a speaker."

Mike McAuliff and Elise Foley contributed reporting.

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