Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, is launching a bid to succeed outgoing House Speaker John Boehner, according to multiple reports.
Chaffetz, chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has begun laying the groundwork for a long-shot run for speaker by collecting the phone numbers of Republican colleagues, according to Roll Call, a Capitol Hill publication.
News of Chaffetz’s potential run was first reported by Politico. The lawmaker’s office did not return calls or emails for comment Friday.
Boehner, R-Ohio, announced on Sept. 25 that he’s retiring from Congress on Oct. 30, causing a frenzy of activity and speculation within the House Republican caucus over who would replace him. The House Republican caucus is expected to vote for its candidate for speaker on Thursday. No date has been set yet for the full House of Representatives to vote on Boehner’s replacement.
If Chaffetz formally enters the speaker’s race, he would be running against House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., regarded as the leading candidate, and Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Fla.
A Chaffetz candidacy would be an about-face for the four-term Utah lawmaker. Wednesday, he appeared to back McCarthy. When CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked if he supported McCarthy as speaker, Chaffetz replied "Yes. I do, yes."
But he also chastised McCarthy for making comments that seemed to suggest that the House committee formed to investigate the deadly 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, was created to politically weaken 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. She was secretary of state at the time of the attack.
"Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?" McCarthy, the favorite to succeed the retiring Boehner when House Republicans hold leadership elections next week, told Fox News. "But we put together a Benghazi special committee. A select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened had we not fought to make that happen."
Chaffetz, in Wednesday’s CNN interview, called McCarthy’s comments an "absolute inappropriate statement" and said that he should apologize.
McCarthy, appearing on Fox News’ "Special Report with Bret Bair" Thursday, sought to clarify his remarks.
"I did not intend to imply in any way that that work was political," he said. "The point I was trying to make, and I want to be very clear about this, I wasn’t saying the committee was political, that committee is solely to get the truth out."