Members of North Carolina’s Republican congressional delegation were calling for more conservative leadership after Representative Kevin McCarthy’s stunning withdraw from the race for Speaker threw Congress into turmoil Thursday.
Reps. Mark Walker and Mark Meadows are among the new wave of conservatives who chafed at the leadership of Speaker John Boehner and showed little enthusiasm for his presumed successor Kevin McCarthy. Walker, who took office this year, said in a phone interview that he was looking at Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina or Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who has repeatedly said he does not want the job.
“We need a tough leader that has the experience that would rally, unify our party and push back against some of the liberal agenda this president’s going to try to push on us the next 14 months,” Walker said.
Meadows, a member of the tea-party affiliated House Freedom Caucus, filed in July a motion for Boehner to step down from the speakership. On Thursday, Meadows said McCarthy didn’t do enough to convince Meadows of his support .
"I do think that there was a path to victory for Kevin, and that path to victory is not always easy,” Meadows told CNN. “It's about changing the process.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Walter Jones, another outspoken critic of House leadership from North Carolina, told McClatchy D.C. that he was looking for a candidate who showed integrity. Jones had circulated a letter demanding that any leadership candidate who had committed any embarrassing “misdeeds” since arriving in Congress should withdraw. Jones cited 1998, when the House was debating impeaching President Clinton and then-Louisiana Rep. Bob Livingston acknowledged marital infidelity before he could be sworn in as speaker.
As reporters and lawmakers alike scrambled Thursday to understand precisely why McCarthy withdrew from a race he had been expected to win, the missive from Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., seemed to some a relevant piece of evidence.
For several days before what was to be the critical vote, a story from a controversial website about McCarthy’s private life had been circulated to House members. One McCarthy supporter, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., dismissed the story as “ridiculous.” McClatchy could not corroborate the report.
In an interview Thursday night, Jones denied that his letter to Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers of Washington state, the chair of the Republican Conference, was motivated by anything more than his belief in integrity.
“My belief is that when you have people in leadership position, who have the privilege to service, they need to say to the conference that I have nothing in my background that will embarrass the Congress,” he said.
Pressed whether there was a trigger that related to the speaker’s race, Jones added that he doesn’t “deal in rumors.”
“The trigger has been the lack of integrity that brought bills to the floor for no reason but to raise money,” Jones said.