WASHINGTON -- U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland is weighing a run for House Speaker in the chaotic aftermath of Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's decision today to withdraw his candidacy.
In a Georgia Republican delegation meeting shortly after McCarthy's announcement, Westmoreland called in by speakerphone. "I told 'em I was certainly considering it," Westmoreland said later.
McCarthy's withdrawal indefinitely delays today's scheduled House Republican vote, and there are a slew of names being bandied about, including fellow Georgian Tom Price, R-Roswell, who had been running for majority leader -- assuming McCarthy would move up.
Making the case for his budding candidacy to reporters, Westmoreland said he could be the person to unite the fractured caucus:
"I understand that there are several people looking at it and I would imagine before it’s closed out there might be 10, maybe more. So I figure if you can get 25 votes you make it to the second round. ...
"The truth of it is is that it’s going to take the right fit. And I don’t know if I’m the right fit or not, but I’ve got a lot of friends up here on both sides of the aisle and in every group, in different things. ... Whoever’s going to do this, it’s going to have to be an organic thing. I don’t know that you calling everybody in the conference is going to make it happen."
Westmoreland said he has displayed leadership skills through his work leading the National Republican Congressional Committee's hugely successful redistricting efforts after the 2010 census, cementing the Republican majority. He has not served in elected leadership nor been a committee chairman, but he did serve as Republican Leader in the Georgia House.
"I understand the challenge of it. I did the same thing in Georgia. I took over for Bob Irvin because he had the caucus so screwed up. ... [But] you know the reality of it is nobody up here really cares what happened in the Georgia state house."
Westmoreland would be a severe long shot for the position, but the field could be wide open. In addition to Price and already-declared speaker candidates Jason Chaffetz of Utah and Daniel Webster of Florida, Westmoreland said he'd heard talk about Oklahoma's Tom Cole, Illinois' Peter Roksam, and Texans Mike Conaway and Pete Sessions as possible speakers.
"I think myself and probably about 30 other people are going to look at it, and the first person that gets 40 votes may win," Westmoreland said.
Westmoreland said he did not agree with Price's proposal that the next speaker should be a short-term unifier who only serves through the end of 2016.
"If you do a 15-month speaker and let’s say you did some magical thing and got everybody together, do you really want him to leave then after he’s gotten everybody together? That’s kind of my philosophy. I just think it causes more problems than it fixes."
As Westmoreland spoke to reporters outside the House floor, he twice silenced a ringing cell phone. The calls were coming from McCarthy.