Washington: Conservative US Republicans drove frontrunner Kevin McCarthy out of the race to be the next speaker of the House Thursday, plunging their party into disarray ahead of crucial federal budget and debt ceiling battles.
McCarthy, the party's number two in the House behind outgoing speaker John Boehner, appeared to have support from a majority of Republican lawmakers for the most important job in Congress - until his withdrawal from consideration.
The congenial 50-year-old Californian, who as majority leader has built connections among conservatives and moderates alike, fell victim to an intense revolt by the party's right flank as he sought the role that would have placed him immediately behind the vice president in the line of presidential succession.
"I'll stay on as majority leader. But the one thing I found in talking to everybody - if we are going to unite and be strong, we need a new face to help do that," McCarthy told reporters after announcing his decision at a party conference meeting.
House leadership postponed the party election, without giving a specific date.
Boehner had announced October 29 as the date for the full vote on the House floor to choose the new speaker, but McCarthy's withdrawal potentially puts that scheduling in doubt.
It also intensifies a battle for the direction of the Republican Party as its presidential candidates seek to reclaim the White House in 2016 after eight years under Democrat Barack Obama.
Seeking to calm the waters after McCarthy's exit, Boehner - who announced his resignation last month, effective at the end of October - issued a statement saying he would stay on "until the House votes to elect a new speaker."