U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, R-Fla., sounded an upbeat note on Thursday afternoon after U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., ended his bid to become House speaker.
McCarthy was set to face Webster and U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, at the Republican caucus meeting on Thursday afternoon as the GOP attempted to replace outgoing U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. But while most estimates have McCarthy claiming a majority of the caucus, opposition to him within the Republican ranks ensured he would not have the 218 votes need to win the gavel.
With the backing of the House Freedom Caucus, Webster has proven a far more serious contender to be speaker than he did when he took on Boehner in January. That time out, Webster received only 12 votes.
Taking to the national airwaves on Thursday afternoon, Webster appeared on “Shepard Smith Reporting" on the Fox News Channel. Asked if there were enough votes to get him over the top, the Florida Republican insisted there was an opportunity now that McCarthy was out of the race.
“I think with Kevin out we could branch out and I think there might be an opportunity,” Webster said. “I’m going to work as hard as I can to see as many members as I can given the new dynamic, a new group of candidates and we’ll see what happens. I believe I can win some people over, I do.”
Asked why he was running for speaker, Webster made his case to wield the gavel.
“I have a problem with the way the House is run,” Webster told Smith. “I believe that a few people at the top of a pyramid of power have controlled this place for a long time. I want to push down the pyramid of power, like I did in Florida, spread out the base so every member has a chance to be effective, take up the most important bills first, not last, and empower the members to pass their own bills. It’s a totally different system. I call it a principle-based system rather than a power-based system.”
Webster also explained why he thinks he appeals to members of the House Freedom Caucus even though he is not a part of it.
“I’m not a member so I wasn’t privy to all of their discussions,” Webster said when asked why the caucus was behind him. “I was only a candidate who went and interviewed. They actually decided that I would be the best candidate. I think they loved the fact that we were going to actually work on doing the most important issues first and they loved the fact that at least they’re going to get a chance. If you push down that pyramid of power and spread out the base, every member gets a chance to file their bill and have it heard and file their amendment and have it heard, as opposed to the system that we have now which closes out, closes down bills, limits debate and so forth. I think that rang true with them; what they want is just an opportunity to present their case.”
Webster also insisted there was room for compromise between McCarthy’s backers and the House Freedom Caucus as Republicans tried to find a replacement for Boehner.
“I don’t think the time for compromise has passed. I don’t believe that,” Webster said. “I’m hoping that I’ll be able to bridge that gap. I think I can. I know I did it in Florida. We had ... a divided conference and different things that were happening and so I believe those things can all work out if we take our time and do them.”
Asked if there was an “internal civil war” within the Republican ranks, Webster said he did not think that was the case.
“I think a lot of people might want to play it that way, but I think we have a good unified group of people when it comes to friendships so it’s not personal,” Webster said. “If it gets personal, that’s when you have trouble.”
On the other side of the aisle in the Florida delegation, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), insisted Webster was wrong and the GOP majority was having internal problems which were now impacting policy.
“Republican dysfunction in the House of Representatives is preventing Congress from taking action to help middle class families and create greater opportunity for every American,” Wasserman Schultz said. “House Republicans continue to waste taxpayer time and money on baseless investigations and government shutdowns. The tea party caucus has now claimed one speaker and two speakers-in-waiting.
“Meanwhile, Democrats have created 13 million jobs, 67 straight months of private-sector job growth, and extended access to quality, affordable health care for 17 million Americans,” Wasserman Schultz added. “The choice for American voters between Democrats and Republicans could not be any more clear.”
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