What's Next In The Race For Speaker Of The House? Rep. Kevin McCarthy dropped out of the running to become House speaker on Thursday. NPR's Scott Simon talks to a member of the House Freedom Caucus, Rep. Mick Mulvaney, about the race for speaker.
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What's Next In The Race For Speaker Of The House?

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What's Next In The Race For Speaker Of The House?

What's Next In The Race For Speaker Of The House?

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

There's an open job. It's tough to fill - speaker of the House. This weekend, more calls for Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin to run. He has said no in the past but has reportedly told House Republicans he is, quote, "thinking and praying on it." Any candidate would have to try to win over the House Freedom Caucus, a group of about 40 Republicans that grew out of the Tea Party movement. Well, Rep. Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina is a member of that Freedom Caucus, and he joins us now. Thanks very much for being with us, Mr. Mulvaney.

MICK MULVANEY: Scott, thanks for having me.

SIMON: Would you support Paul Ryan?

MULVANEY: Don't know yet. I like Paul a lot. Paul's got credibility in a bunch of different areas in the conference. In fact, Paul is just generally probably one of the most admired members of our conference. That said, the House Freedom Caucus has interviewed the folks who are actually running for the job - it was Mr. McCarthy until yesterday or two days ago, Mr. Chaffetz from Utah and Mr. Webster. And we have endorsed Mr. Webster, and we're sticking with that for right now.

SIMON: Yeah. Why?

MULVANEY: Dan is an institutionalist. He's actually not even a conservative. If you go look at his voting record, he's one of the more moderate members of our conference. But what he's been pushing is a more open and fair system, where more amendments are allowed, more debate is allowed and the Congress is allowed to work as a legislative body. It hasn't been done like that now for the last 10 years, and it certainly hasn't been like that since Mr. Boehner was chairman (unintelligible)...

SIMON: Well, when you say Congress is allowed to work as a legislative body, you understand the frustration that I think very openly Speaker Boehner and some others experience that everybody was talking, but not a lot of business was getting done, that that was the result of all this give and take. And they think at some point, if you're going to be in government, you've got to govern.

MULVANEY: Well, there wasn't any give and take. That was the problem. It was regular practice for us - and this doesn't get widely reported - but on a debt ceiling debate, for example, we would do nothing; we do nothing; we do nothing. And then three days before the debt ceiling limit was reached, Mr. Boehner would walk into a room and say OK, here's what we're doing.

That's not how it's supposed to work. You're supposed to work through committees. You're supposed to have amendments. You're supposed to have some type of deliberative process, and we didn't do that. We had some 25-year-old staffer in some back room coming up with an idea, and then we were being asked either to take it or leave it. So we just got tired...

SIMON: I mean, that's...

MULVANEY: (Unintelligible).

SIMON: ...That's quite a charge against the speaker of the House that he was punting his responsibilities to a 25-year-old legislative assistant, really?

MULVANEY: (Laughter) It happens more than we probably admit in Washington.

SIMON: Well, Freedom Caucus has 40 votes. There are more than 200 House Republicans. Shouldn't you compromise with them?

MULVANEY: Well, sure, and we're more than happy to. The way this will end up is that we will end up with a speaker that all of us support. It may be Paul Ryan. It may be somebody else. But keep in mind that the things that we're arguing for are things that most people in the conference want. One of the things that struck me since we started this debate I guess about two weeks ago now are the number of moderates and centrists in my party who have said to me, you know what?

We want the same thing. We're frustrated with this lack of process. We're frustrated with just being a rubberstamp for somebody else's idea. And I think that's why you're seeing such a difficult time replacing Mr. Boehner is that this lack of satisfaction with the job, the lack of satisfaction with what it means to be a member of Congress runs much, much deeper than just the conservative wing of the party.

SIMON: So the way you explain it, this isn't over conservative principles. It's over mundane House rules.

MULVANEY: For lack of a better word, yes. Let me give you a perfect example. Yesterday, we passed a very important bill on exporting crude oil for the first time in 40 years. It had a provision in it that many conservatives did not like. That was not added in committee. It was added by the leadership at the very last minute without any debate whatsoever.

In the past, we would not have been allowed to have an amendment to strip that out. And I would've voted against the bill, along with most conservatives. Yesterday, for the first time in probably since I've been there, we were allowed an amendment to strip out that - what we found to be an offensive piece of the legislation.

SIMON: Yeah.

MULVANEY: That amendment failed, but since we at least got a chance to voice our opinions, we were then able to vote for the bill. And many more Republicans voted for the bill yesterday, along with a lot of Democrats, than would have otherwise.

SIMON: We have to go, Mr. Mulvaney. Thanks so much for your time. Rep. Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina.

MULVANEY: Thank you.

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