UPDATE: 1:10 p.m. EDT -- After pulling out of the race for House speaker Thursday, Rep. Kevin McCarthy said he has respect for all his colleagues in the Republican conference and believes they need to work together in order to deal with challenges facing the country.

"Over the last week, it has become clear to me that our Conference is deeply divided and needs to unite behind one leader. I have always put this Conference ahead of myself," he said in a statement Thursday. "I look forward to working alongside my colleagues to help move our Conference's agenda and our country forward."

Rep. Darrel Issa said Thursday that McCarthy would remain the House majority leader. Other members expressed surprise at McCarthy's decision in the aftermath of his announcement.


Amid speculation about whether other candidates would now enter the race, Rep. Paul Ryan said he would not be a candidate for speaker. House Republicans must now figure out who they will coalesce around, which could be a difficult task due to the different factions that had been competing for McCarthy's attention since the race began.


Original story: House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., unexpectedly dropped out of the race for House Speaker Thursday during what was supposed to be a secret ballot vote among the Republican conference to nominate their candidate to replace current Speaker John Boehner. Boehner said he would postpone the vote, but it was not immediately clear when it would take place.

The final vote will take place with the full House of Representatives later this month. Thursday's vote was expected to serve as a kind of test for McCarthy, the current House majority leader, who had been considered the front-runner in the race. He faced concerns from the more conservative members of the Republican conference who ousted Boehner.

That conservative group, known as the House Freedom Caucus, endorsed long-shot candidate Rep. Daniel Webster of Florida Wednesday night in a show of the power it hopes to wield over the future Republican leadership. Webster also ran for speaker against Boehner in January, receiving 12 votes. The House Freedom Caucus consists of about 40 members, so it doesn’t have enough clout to determine the next speaker on its own, but if its members stick together for the final vote, they could force the next speaker to heed their requests.

Conservatives want several rules changes that they will likely push candidates to commit to before the full vote Oct. 29. They want more votes in committee, representation among Republican leadership and fewer punishments for members who do not vote with the party, among other promises.

Some members of the House had also worried about McCarthy’s leadership and speaking abilities after he suggested that the House Benghazi committee -- which is investigating the 2012 attack on U.S. diplomats in Libya -- was created to hurt Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers. The majority leader has since apologized for his comments, but Democrats seized on the news and have used his remarks to their advantage.

Chaffetz U.S Rep. Jason Chaffetz shares a moment with his wife Julie Chaffetz in his office Oct. 7 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Rep. Chaffetz is running in the race to succeed Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

In addition to Webster, McCarthy faced a challenge from Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. When Chaffetz announced his candidacy Sunday, he told Fox News Sunday that he did not believe McCarthy could get the required 218 votes he needs to be elected speaker.

“My candidacy, albeit very much an underdog, is about a fresh start for our conference and taking a new direction on how we share our message and take our message to the American people,” Chaffetz told reporters Thursday ahead of the secret ballot vote.

The idea of fresh leadership has plagued McCarthy so far, and he apparently made similar remarks to Boehner when dropping out of the race Thursday, according to House Republicans who talked to reporters after the meeting.