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What Just Happened To The Speaker's Race, In 2 Charts

No one knows who will lead House Republicans next, but for now, chaos reigns among the House GOP Rep. Kevin McCarthy shocked Washington on Thursday when he dropped out of the race for speaker of the House.

If you aren't watching Capitol Hill closely, you might not know what the big deal is, or why the GOP is having such a hard time picking a speaker. Here's a quick rundown of what's going on.

McCarthy, the current House majority leader, was the front-runner in the race for the speakership, which John Boehner abruptly resigned a week ago. As Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., told reporters Thursday, "No other candidate came close to having the 200-plus votes that Kevin McCarthy had."

To be nominated for speaker, McCarthy would have needed only a majority of House Republicans' votes — so 125 of the 248 Republicans who would have voted (true, there are only 247 GOP representatives, but one delegate from American Samoa would have voted as well).

In other words, McCarthy was ensured of winning the nomination. But then the full House would have had to vote to give him the speakership. That's a much higher hurdle.

McCarthy had two challengers billing themselves as (more) conservative alternatives — Jason Chaffetz and Daniel Webster. Webster was endorsed by the Freedom Caucus, a far-right group of around 40 representatives, by many counts.

Assuming Democrats voted for their own nominee as they have in the past (that is, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi), McCarthy — with his 200 or so votes — would have had to try to pick off around 18 people from that 40(ish) group or the other handful of lawmakers he hadn't already won over.

Now, with McCarthy out, the House GOP is thrown into confusion as it tries to find itself a compromise candidate — or perhaps a candidate that can just get it through 2017, as some representatives have called for. Given how fractured they are right now, who that might be is anyone's guess.

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Danielle Kurtzleben is a political correspondent assigned to NPR's Washington Desk. She appears on NPR shows, writes for the web, and is a regular on The NPR Politics Podcast. She is covering the 2020 presidential election, with particular focuses on on economic policy and gender politics.

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