Exclusive–Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich: Kevin McCarthy ‘Far and Away the Best Man to Be Speaker’ Post-Boehner

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich tells Breitbart News that he thinks House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is “far and away the best man” to replace Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) as Speaker of the House when Boehner resigns later this month.

Gingrich referenced a column written by House Ways and Means Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)—the 2012 GOP vice presidential candidate on former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s ticket—endorsing McCarthy for Speaker as well.

“McCarthy is far and away the best man to be Speaker,” Gingrich said when reached by phone on Sunday afternoon.

He has a proven record as a leader in California and as a leader in the House. He’s been a solid conservative. I think Paul Ryan’s article endorsing him today says it all. He has a track record of bringing people together. And he can actually take on the president. He’s helped Ryan pass four balanced budgets in the House, he has helped end earmarks and he has a solid record on the Second Amendment and a solid record on the right to life. I certainly think he is the best person to lead the House after John Boehner.

When asked if anyone else has the gravitas to be Speaker of the House, Gingrich said, “no, they don’t have the reach.”

“McCarthy has been out criss-crossing the country helping elect Republicans, building a majority,” Gingrich told Breitbart News. “You look at what he has done and then you ask others to compare: How many districts have they been in? How much money have they raised? Will they help pass bills? Kevin McCarthy is head and shoulders above any other possible leader.”

Gingrich wouldn’t talk negatively about Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, who announced his candidacy against McCarthy for Speaker on Sunday.

Chaffetz is hitting McCarthy after comments McCarthy made in an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity last week, where McCarthy slipped up and implied the House Benghazi Select Committee was created with a political focus designed to take down former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers in the 2016 presidential race.

McCarthy has since clarified that the way his critics interpreted the comment is not what he meant. What he meant is that since the committee was created with the purpose of finding out what really happened, and ended up uncovering the private email server that Clinton used, and as a result of that discovery—something that is an undeniable fact—her poll numbers have taken a hit.

While Chaffetz is running against McCarthy with that in mind, he does in fact have a couple of seriously questionable incidents on his resume. One of the things that led the House of Representatives to this point where Boehner has announced his resignation, opening up the leadership to new elections and chaos conference-wide, was Boehner’s retaliation against House Republicans—especially conservatives, like Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC)—when those members voted their conscience. Chaffetz, who only had his committee chairmanship because Boehner gave it to him—as Boehner did with every committee chairman—carried out Boehner’s retaliation against Meadows this summer, something that served as the impetus for Boehner’s eventual demise.

After Meadows joined with 33 of his other colleagues—mostly House Freedom Caucus members—to vote against a rule that leadership used to bring the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) portion of Obamatrade to the House floor, Chaffetz stripped Meadows of a chairmanship of a subcommittee on the House Oversight Committee.

While that rule vote ultimately passed 217-212, it only passed because Boehner—and Ryan, ironically, who is the chief architect of Obamatrade in the House—were able to convince House Democratic leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (R-CA) to give them eight Democrats to vote for the rule. If the vote had proceeded along party lines, as rule votes normally do, it would have failed 209-220 and President Obama wouldn’t be able to move forward with his Obamatrade agenda.

After significant pressure from Republicans on his own committee after he made the significant retaliatory move against Meadows for his rule vote, Chaffetz reversed course and handed Meadows his subcommittee gavel back. Meadows, of course, would shortly thereafter introduce the motion to vacate the chair of the House—a fancy term for removing Boehner as Speaker—which would ultimately gain enough Republican support either to oust Boehner or force him to rely on Democrats to stay as Speaker of the House. Boehner chose to resign.

Chaffetz also, in 1988 when he was then a Democrat, worked as the Utah co-chair of Democratic presidential nominee former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis’ presidential campaign.

A 2008 profile of Chaffetz in the Utah Daily Herald detailed not just Chaffetz’s conversion to conservatism from being a Democrat on Dukakis’ campaign—a conversion that apparently took just a year.

Chaffetz, the paper wrote, “was not only identified as a Democrat but was co-chairman in 1988 of Dukakis for Utah,” adding that: “Chaffetz’s father, John, had married and divorced Kitty Dukakis before she married then Massachusetts governor and presidential candidate Michael Dukakis.”

Earl Kauffman, a fellow placekicker alongside Chaffetz on Brigham Young University’s football team, is quoted as saying Chaffetz worked hard for the Dukakis campaign.

“As an 18-year-old kid, I was like, ‘You do what?’” Kauffman is quoted in the local paper.

The paper brushes off Chaffetz’s work for the Democratic nominee as “more about family connections” than political viewpoints—then quotes Chaffetz saying that.

“I was in my late teens,” Chaffetz said. “I wasn’t driven by any political issues.”

His friend and former fellow placekicker Kauffman told the local paper, though, he was shocked when Chaffetz emerged as a Republican later.

“Whatever the reason, Chaffetz worked hard enough and was committed enough that Kauffman says, ‘I was really surprised when I saw him as a Republican with the governor,’” the Utah Daily Herald wrote. By 1990, the local paper says, Chaffetz emerged as a conservative.

“After finishing college with a degree in communications, Chaffetz joined Nu Skin as an intern,” the Utah Daily Herald wrote in the 2008 profile. “He said working during the 1988 presidential race gave him a chance to explore his political beliefs, and what he discovered is that he fit in better with those on the other side of the aisle. So when Reagan — then a former president — came to Nu Skin as a motivational speaker in 1990, Chaffetz’s conservatism was already firmly in place.”

Gingrich, in his Sunday interview with Breitbart News, wouldn’t comment on either of these questions about Chaffetz—the Utahan’s work for Dukakis’ campaign in 1988 or his retaliation on Boehner’s behalf against conservatives like Meadows.

“All I’m going to say is I’m happy to talk positive about McCarthy,” Gingrich said. “I’m not going to talk negatively about anyone else.”

Chaffetz has, at this time, declined an interview request from Breitbart News.

But ultimately, since so many members don’t have what it takes to lead the House, Gingrich said it’s McCarthy they should get behind for Speaker.

“You have to listen to everybody and then make a decision, and then work to turn that decision into success,” Gingrich, a former Speaker himself, told Breitbart News. “It’s a very simple process, but very hard to do. It takes enormous energy and a great ability to work with a wide variety of people. Kevin has both of those.”

Gingrich added that while he liked Boehner, he does think it was time for a new leader.

“I think everybody will be glad to have a new leader,” Gingrich said. “I’m a big admirer of John Boehner’s. I think he did do a remarkable job getting the largest Republican majority elected since the 1920s and he accomplished a number of key things. But I do think people were ready for somebody new. And I think that Kevin brings the personality, the skills, the energy and the discipline that is central to be the Speaker of the U.S. House.”

The only other candidate besides Chaffetz and McCarthy running for House Speaker is Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL), who ran against Boehner at the beginning of this Congress. Webster is running as a reformer and told Breitbart News in a recent interview he wants to change the way business in done in Congress.

“I have one desire: That is to have a principle-based, member-driven Congress. Period. That’s what I want,” Webster said in an exclusive phone interview last weekend. “Really, right now, the default of every legislative body I’ve been to—and I’ve been to a lot of them—is a power-based system as opposed to principle-based. That works too, you can do it that way where a few people at the top of the pyramid make all of the decisions. We’d rather see a flattened down pyramid of power and spread out the base so every member has an opportunity to be successful.”

McCarthy, Webster and presumably Chaffetz will be meeting with House conservatives from four separate groups–the Conservative Opportunity Society, the House Freedom Caucus, the House Liberty Caucus and the House Tea Party Caucus–on Tuesday evening. As many as 80 conservatives are expected to attend, and if they bloc-vote together for the speakership as expected they could deny any person the speakership. So, they have a massive level of influence in this process and could extract serious concessions from whoever does end up winning.


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