House Speaker John A. Boehner said Thursday he’ll stay in Congress until there’s a replacement speaker — raising the possibility he could stay on beyond the end-of-October retirement date he’d set for himself.
Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, his top lieutenant and the man expected to succeed him, withdrew from the race in a surprise move, sending House Republicans into disarray.
Mr. Boehner canceled the elections that had been scheduled for Thursday afternoon to choose the next speaker, and afterward issued a statement saying he’s not going anywhere — for now.
“As I have said previously, I will serve as speaker until the House votes to elect a new speaker,” he said. “We will announce the date for this election at a later date, and I’m confident we will elect a new speaker in the coming weeks.”
He had set an Oct. 29 date for an election in the whole House, which would have chosen his replacement and ushered him into retirement. That could still happen, but with the House scheduled to be on vacation next week and a major hearing with former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton slated for the week after, it’s unclear whether such a deadline is likely.
His decision thrilled some of his supporters within the GOP.
“The speaker will continue serving until another candidate can get 218 votes. In the foreseeable future I don’t see any candidate from either party being able to get 218 votes, so I expect the speaker to continue serving,” said Rep. Carlos Curbelo, Florida Republican. “I hope he stays as long as possible.”
Even more intriguing is that Mr. Boehner could stay even after his retirement from his House seat is effective. There is no requirement that the speaker be a sitting member.
“He will continue serving as speaker until the House elects a new speaker. That’s the way the rules work,” Mr. Curbelo said.
Mr. Boehner shocked Washington last month by announcing he was stepping down, a day after he hosted Pope Francis at the Capitol for a history-making address to Congress.
The Ohio Republican said he’d he’d intended to go after last year, but had stayed on out of necessity after his likely successor, then-Majority Leader Eric Cantor, was ousted in a GOP primary in Virginia. Mr. McCarthy, Mr. Cantor’s protege, ascended to his position, but was unable to consolidate support, and had several stumbles that left him shy of the 218 votes he would have needed to win a vote on the full House floor later this month.