Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz (UT-3) announced on Friday that he plans to challenge Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA-23), to become the next Speaker of the House. Chaffetz becomes the second hardcore conservative to challenge McCarthy for the right to replace outgoing House Speaker John Boehner. Florida’s Daniel Webster (FL-10) is also challenging McCarthy from the far right.
Chaffetz’s decision to take on McCarthy underscores the continuing tension between the insurgent and establishment wings of the Republican Party. Kevin McCarthy now finds himself in nearly the identical position John Boehner has been in for much of his tenure as House Speaker. McCarthy like Boehner, is finding that it is nearly impossible to win support from the right-wing activist wing of his party.
Chaffetz spent the past week badgering Planned Parenthood Director Cecile Richards, and attacking fellow Republican McCarthy for honestly depicting the Benghazi hearings as a drawn out politically motivated stunt to undermine Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
In 2010, Chaffetz described himself as “100 percent pro-tea party”, but he refused to join the House Tea Party caucus because he thought it would be too structured for his tastes. He feared that the caucus might “co-opt” the tea party movement.
Chaffetz currently serves as the Chairman of the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee, where he mostly uses his position to conduct dubious investigations of imaginary Obama administration scandals. He also tried to bully Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser over marijuana legalization in the District of Columbia, threatening to put her in prison for defying Congress on the issue.
Chaffetz is unlikely to defeat McCarthy in his bid to become Speaker of the House, but his entry into the race to fill the speaker’s seat is a reminder that Boehner’s departure does nothing to quell the murmuring of the GOP House radicals. Chaffetz and his allies are intent on driving the Republican Party further and further to the right, regardless of the consequences for the party or for the nation. Chaffetz will likely be thwarted this time around, but he and others like him, are bound to be constant thorns in Kevin McCarthy’s side for months to come.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.