Speaker John Boehner defends Kevin McCarthy

Chaffetz: McCarthy has the majority of support
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    Chaffetz: McCarthy has the majority of support

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Chaffetz: McCarthy has the majority of support 01:14

Story highlights

  • McCarthy admitted that he chose his words poorly, but reiterated what he has been saying as he tries to clean up the remarks: that the committee is not political
  • The comments have dogged McCarthy as he is working to convince his Republican colleagues to support his bid to replace Boehner

Washington (CNN)Outgoing House Speaker John Boehner gave a lift on Wednesday to the man hoping to replace him as he goes into a crucial vote on Thursday.

At a news conference with reporters, Boehner defended House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who is under fire from both sides of the aisle over comments he made about Hillary Clinton and the Benghazi Select Committee.
"Let me just add this: There's not one American in the course of their lifetime who wouldn't rather have the opportunity to say words over again," Boehner said Wednesday.
    Boehner was jumping in as McCarthy was asked about his remarks -- which implied the purpose of the Benghazi Committee was to damage Clinton's presidential campaign.
    McCarthy admitted that he chose his words poorly, but reiterated what he has been saying as he tries to clean up the remarks: that the committee is not political.
    "I could have been more clear on my description," McCarthy said Wednesday. "I think at any given time, someone could always say something better."
    The comments have dogged McCarthy as he is working to convince his Republican colleagues to support his bid to replace Boehner when he resigns at the end of the month.
    On Thursday, the Republican conference will vote on who to nominate as their Speaker candidate. But that vote only requires a majority -- and the crucial hurdle for McCarthy will be whether he can get 218 votes on the floor in the House election Oct. 29.
    Struggling to find consensus within their own ranks, the conservatives in the influential House Freedom Caucus have decided they will not vote as a bloc in Thursday's House GOP election for Speaker, according to one its members.
    Instead the group will focus their strategy on the Oct. 29 election on the House floor.
    Rep. John Fleming, a Louisiana Republican, says the group decided after Tuesday's candidate interviews to go into Thursday's secret ballot vote "noncommittal" and each conservative member of the Freedom Caucus will vote their conscience.
    That could cause problems for McCarthy: McCarthy can only lose 29 Republicans on the floor to keep 218 votes in his favor -- and the Freedom Caucus is roughly 40 members strong.
    But the Freedom Caucus can't even agree on whether there is a lack of consensus.
    One of the founding members of the House Freedom Caucus said Fleming was incorrect -- and that the group is meeting Thursday to try to reach an agreement.
    "We're meeting today and we're going to try to get to a bloc consensus," said Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador said when asked about Fleming's comments. "That's not what we decided. It's probably people who left early (from last night's meeting). We're on the same page, we're wholely together and we're going to try to vote as a bloc."
    Another founding member, Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, told reporters Wednesday morning that conservatives intend to vote together, both behind closed doors and on the floor.
    If McCarthy fails to get enough votes, it could force multiple ballots, an embarrassment for a candidate not suffered in nearly a century.