Kevin McCarthy’s bid to be the next Speaker of the House has been hamstrung by gaffes and unresolved tensions between moderates and conservatives within the House Republican conference. And the week ahead isn’t looking any better for him.
On Tuesday night, the California Republican will be “interviewed” by the same hardliners who helped speed the political demise of John Boehner (R-OH).
Members of the House Freedom Caucus, the Tea Party Caucus, the Conservative Opportunity Society and the House Liberty Caucus will put on a forum for speaker candidates.
Skeptical lawmakers are likely to press the hopefuls about the positions on a variety of issues, including federal funding for Planned Parenthood, the fate of the U.S. Export-Import Bank and the debt ceiling.
McCarthy, the current House Majority Leader, appeared to have the stage mostly to himself, facing only token conservative opposition from Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL), a last-minute entrant into the last speaker election in January who earned 12 votes.
That changed Friday with reports that House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chair Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) might enter the race.
Chaffetz has been front and center on Capitol Hill recently. Last week he chaired a marathon hearing grilling the head of Planned Parenthood. The often contentious meeting focused on the undercover videos showing officials from the health organization discussing fetal tissue research.
The Utah lawmaker tried to play kingmaker on the GOP leadership ballot last week when he helped lead the movement to draft Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), the head of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, for Majority Leader.
Chaffetz and other potential challengers may think they can stop McCarthy’s ascent after he made a statement suggesting the Benghazi panel was created to cripple Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
McCarthy has since walked back his remarks and tried to calm the nerves of jittery allies.
“Look this is not what you're going to see as speaker of the House,” he said Thursday night during an interview on Fox News.
McCarthy will find out if his chat with conservatives and efforts at damage control worked on Thursday.
The House GOP conference will meet behind closed doors and vote for who their next leaders will be. The meeting is essentially a nominating convention, but the outcome will be the strongest indicator to date of the level of support McCarthy enjoys among his colleagues.
A narrow victory could prompt more opponents to decide to seek the gavel before the speaker election on the House floor around the end of the month. All members are required to vote and a candidate needs 218 votes to win.
If no one reaches that mark, lawmakers just vote again, and again, until a winner is declared.