- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 27, 2015

Conservatives are pushing to slow down the race to succeed retiring Speaker John A. Boehner, hoping to force a broader shake-up in House Republican leadership as the party tries to move forward.

Some lawmakers are calling for a short timeout to have the Republican caucus sit down and take stock of what happened with Mr. Boehner, a popular leader whom a small minority of Republicans wanted to oust — but whose open opposition managed to poison the Ohio Republican’s leadership so much that he abruptly announced Friday that he’d had enough and would step down at the end of October.

That leaves a month to replace the man who led House Republicans to majorities in three straight congresses, and conservatives were hoping to prevent a rush to coronate Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, Mr. Boehner’s top lieutenant, as his successor and to make sure there is a full debate about the rest of the top leadership team as well.

“There is no immediate rush to elect a new speaker, and this provides all of us an opportunity to weigh the decision carefully,” said Rep. Steve King, an Iowa Republican who said he would press potential candidates to divulge how they would try to stop President Obama’s claims of unilateral powers to grant tentative amnesty from deportation to illegal immigrants and how they would strip funding for Planned Parenthood.

Conservatives had said Mr. Boehner wasn’t acting forcefully enough these issues.

Rep. Peter J. Roskam of Illinois, a former chief deputy whip, wrote a letter asking for a special extended all-House Republican meeting so the party could try to sort out the forces that led to Mr. Boehner’s decision.

“We need a plan, not a person,” the Illinois Republican wrote.

Many Republicans assume that Mr. McCarthy, the current majority leader, will gain enough votes to take over the speakership, and that would open a race for his current post.

Members of the House Freedom Caucus, a coalition of the most right-leaning Republicans, said they expected to try to rally behind a candidate of their choosing and sounded realistic about their poor chances of keeping Mr. McCarthy from the top job. The Freedom Caucus was already floating another plan, which would put one of their approved conservatives in a prominent position on the leadership team so they would have a voice in decision-making.

Mr. Boehner’s resignation caught all of his colleagues off guard. He said he made the decision Friday morning, just hours after he fulfilled a lifelong dream by welcoming Pope Francis — head of the Roman Catholic Church, of which Mr. Boehner is a devout member — to the Capitol for a speech to a joint session of Congress.

Speaking to reporters Friday, he would not speculate on who should succeed him, though he did say he thought Mr. McCarthy would be a fine choice.

But it’s not clear a Boehner endorsement would help anyone much these days.

He said he wasn’t retiring because of pressure and thought he would have survived a vote to oust him as speaker. But conservatives, pressured by outside groups, had taken to blaming Mr. Boehner for many of the Republican Party’s difficulties in stopping Mr. Obama’s agenda.

“Listen, winning that vote was never an issue. I would’ve gotten the votes. But why make my Republican members walk the plank?” the speaker told the CBS program “Face the Nation” on Sunday.

He said critics who insisted Republican leaders could have done more to stop the president were charlatans.

“The Bible says beware of false prophets. There are some out there spreading noise about how much can get done. I mean, this whole idea that we were going to shut down the government to get rid of Obamacare in 2013, this plan never had a chance,” he said.

He specifically referred to Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a Republican presidential candidate who forced the 2013 showdown over Obamacare, a futile effort that led to a 16-day partial government shutdown that threatened the Republican Party’s standing — until the rollout of Obamacare itself proved to be disastrous. In August, Mr. Boehner called Mr. Cruz a “jackass.”

Mr. McCarthy, the heir apparent to the speaker, has been in Republican leadership for six years, serving as chief deputy whip and then as whip before ascending to majority leader when incumbent Eric Cantor lost his Virginia primary last year and resigned from Congress.

“I think it’s fair to say that Kevin has the inside track,” Rep. Mick Mulvaney, South Carolina Republican, said on “Fox News Sunday.”

The immediate question is when the vote will be.

Although many conservatives are pressing for time to evaluate the candidates and agenda, Rep. Tom Cole, Oklahoma Republican, said sooner is better.

“Why do you want to have a long, drawn-out family drama?” he said.

Mr. Roskam said the issues underlying Mr. Boehner’s decision to quit need to be discussed so the next speaker can avoid the same problems.

“We need to reflect on the causes of why John Boehner got pushed out by his own members,” Mr. Roskam’s office said in sending out his call for a go-slow approach. “We need to figure out a plan moving forward, not simply coalesce around the people who are ‘inevitable’ as the next leadership team. Conservative groups will likely be more frustrated by the next leadership team if we are unable to address the deep divisions in our conference.”

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