Politics & Government

N.C. Republican members of Congress keep powder dry on who should be speaker

In a closed-door meeting of House Republicans on Thursday, Kevin McCarthy expects to secure his party’s nomination as speaker of the House of Representatives.
In a closed-door meeting of House Republicans on Thursday, Kevin McCarthy expects to secure his party’s nomination as speaker of the House of Representatives. AP

North Carolina GOP members of Congress are mostly keeping their opinions to themselves on who should be their next speaker, but those willing to share their thoughts are throwing their support behind embattled favorite Rep. Kevin McCarthy.

U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry, a Lincoln County Republican, described the current majority leader from California as a gifted politician and lawmaker with a knack for developing relationships and understanding members and the politics of their districts.

“Kevin has a clear plan to improve the conference and improve the way the Congress works,” said McHenry, who is running for the whip leadership position.

Rep. Robert Pittenger of Charlotte said Rep. McCarthy would build on the foundation established by outgoing Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. But Pittenger emphasized that McCarthy has his own style. The relationships he’s developed within the House as well as in the Senate would help end gridlock, Pittenger said.

McCarthy has faced some last minute opposition underscoring the deep divisions that remain in the party. And it’s forced several North Carolina Republicans to take a second look at the candidates.

Reps. George Holding of Raleigh, Renee Ellmers of Dunn and Mark Walker of Greensboro acknowledged Wednesday they still had not yet decided.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, entered the race last week saying that he was better suited to reunite the fractured GOP and claimed McCarthy couldn’t get a majority of 218 votes on the full House floor.

And on Wednesday, the conservative House Freedom Caucus endorsed Rep. Daniel Webster of Florida, another long shot candidate.

The three candidates will speak at a forum before the vote to make their final case.

“I will be listening closely and searching for the warrior I believe can adhere to my values, and more importantly, to the values of my constituents,” Walker said in a statement.

Blair Ellis, a spokeswoman for Rep. Ellmers, said the congresswoman wanted more input from members of the 2nd Congressional district before making her decision.

“So much is at stake,” Ellis said.

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