Jason Chaffetz Enters Race For Speaker
Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz has entered the race to replace John Boehner as Speaker of the House:
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) on Sunday announced his intention to run to replace outgoing Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).
“Today, here, I am announcing my intention to run for Speaker of the House of Representatives,” Chaffetz said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Chaffetz, who chairs the House Oversight Committee, said he does not believe House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who is the favorite to take over the Speakership, can get the requisite number of votes from Republicans to win.
“Kevin McCarthy is a good man, he’s a big reason why we have such a solid majority, but things have changed, and there’s really a math problem,” he said. “You need 218 votes on the floor of the House, there are 246 Republicans who will vote, but there are nearly 50 people and a growing number that will not and cannot vote for Kevin McCarthy as the Speaker on the floor. He’s going to fall short of the 218 votes on the floor of the House.”
The Utah Republican positioned himself as a candidate who can bring together an increasingly divided Republican Party in Congress, saying he appeals to establishment and Tea Party members.
“That’s why I’m offering myself as a candidate, to try to bridge that divide,” Chaffetz said. “I think those 50-plus people find that I’m a fair, even-balanced person, that I can bridge that divide between our more centrist members and some of the more far-right-wing members. That’s why I entered this race.”
Chaffetz also said several representatives have urged him to run for the Speakership, saying they can’t vote for McCarthy.
Chaffetz did not specify whether he would support the Speaker-designate who emerges from a closed-door vote at the Republican House Conference on Thursday, but said he would support the eventual Speaker.
Chaffetz has only been in Congress since being elected in 2008, and while that’s a typically unusual amount of time for someone who would ascend to the Speaker’s Chair, it’s worth noting that McCarthy himself has only been in Congress two years longer than Chaffetz. The main difference is that McCarthy has risen much higher in leadership than Chaffetz, who currently heads the House’s Government Oversight Committee. Chaffetz has also been seen as the most likely successor to Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, who was last re-elected in 2012 and will be 85 when his seat is up again in 2018. He’s also been someone who has been more adept at bridging the divide between the conservative wing of the House GOP Caucus and leadership than most others on the right. Whether that will be enough to get him into the Speaker’s chair is an open question. In addition to Chaffetz, McCarthy also has a challenger in Florida Congressman Daniel Webster who has deeper ties to the Tea Party win of the caucus so it’s possible that the opposition to McCarthy will end up being sufficiently divided for him to slip through. Additionally, the fact that the leadership elections are only four days away means that Chaffetz will have little time to gather supporters, something McCarthy has been doing since the morning Boehner resigned.