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Congress in Recess; House Postpones Speaker Elections

The House of Representatives has adjourned for a week-long recess without a timeline for electing a new Speaker of the House. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) unexpectedly dropped out of the race for Speaker on Thursday. He explained that he did not believe he would be able to unite the divided Republican conference as leader of the party. McCarthy was the favorite to succeed outgoing Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio). While McCarthy would have had the 124 votes necessary to be nominated for Speaker during the closed-door internal GOP conference election, it is unclear whether he would have the simple majority of 218 votes necessary to win during the formal vote on the House floor. Prior to McCarthy’s announcement, Boehner postponed elections for majority leader and whip, which were also scheduled to take place on Thursday, in response to conservatives who argued that McCarthy might lose the Speaker’s race and keep his position as majority leader. McCarthy will retain the majority leader post through 2016, and Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) will stay in his current position as House majority whip. Boehner, who had announced that he would be resigning on October 30, has confirmed that he will remain as Speaker of the House until a successor is elected. He had previously scheduled the formal vote for Speaker on the House floor for October 29. A new date for the Speaker elections has not been scheduled, and a later date could complicate work on a number of pressing policy priorities, including addressing the debt limit in early November and negotiating a fiscal 2016 spending package to fund the federal government by December 11. McCarthy was challenged for the Speaker position by Chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.). Chaffetz has spoken out against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) promise that there will be no more government shutdowns during his time in office. Some Republican members are now looking toward Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to unite the Republican party, but Ryan has seemed reluctant to express interest in the position of Speaker. Others have floated the idea of an interim speaker to preside until the November 2016 elections.

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