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Chaffetz Leaps Into Race To Succeed Boehner As Speaker

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The race to be the next speaker of the House just got more interesting when Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz made this announcement today on Fox News.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "FOX NEWS")

CONGRESSMAN JASON CHAFFETZ: Today, here, I am announcing my intention to run for speaker of the House of Representatives.

MARTIN: As NPR's Brakkton Booker reports, Chaffetz's bid represents a serious challenge to Kevin McCarthy, the current GOP majority leader.

BRAKKTON BOOKER, BYLINE: With Speaker John Boehner retiring at the end of this month, most thought the number two House Republican, Kevin McCarthy, would simply replace him. McCarthy even joked with the press about how he was different from Boehner.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER KEVIN MCCARTHY: I won't be as tense.

BOOKER: But last week, McCarthy's path to the speakership hit a speed bump. McCarthy seemed to suggest the goal of the congressional investigation into the 2012 Benghazi attacks was to cripple Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. Here he is on Fox News last week.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "FOX NEWS")

MCCARTHY: Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee; a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping - why? - 'cause she's un-trustable.

BOOKER: McCarthy was already facing a nominal challenge from conservative Florida Republican Daniel Webster. Chaffetz says he can unify the party's far right and establishment wings.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHAFFETZ: I will support the nominee, but I just don't believe that the nominee, if it's Kevin McCarthy, can actually get it to 218. That's why I'm offering myself as a candidate to try to bridge that divide.

BOOKER: The vote is scheduled to take place Thursday. Brakkton Booker, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.