By Richard Cowan and Katharine Jackson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Less than a week after becoming the first U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives voted out by his own caucus, Republican Kevin McCarthy said on Monday he would take the job back if asked to, as his colleagues contemplated their next move.
McCarthy at a press conference stressed the need for House leadership at a time of international crisis with Israel at war with Palestinian militant group Hamas. But rather than putting himself forward for the top job, he said the decision should be taken by his fellow Republicans.
“That’s a decision by the conference. I’ll allow the conference to make whatever decision,” the California Republican said, while laying out his own plan for the Middle East crisis.
“I can lead in any position,” he said, but added: “The House can do nothing without a speaker.”
A number of House Republicans endorsed McCarthy’s return as speaker late on Monday at a closed-door conference meeting, where tempers flared during more than two hours of discussion.
“At this point, unless Kevin McCarthy says otherwise, that he’s out-out-out, I’m supporting Kevin McCarthy,” said Representative Carlos Gimenez.
McCarthy earlier in the day had told radio host Hugh Hewitt in an interview that he stood ready to retake the speakership if asked to do so.
“Whatever the conference wants, I will do. I think we need to be strong. I think we need to be united,” McCarthy said.
Representative Tim Burchett, who voted for McCarthy’s ouster last week, said he and his fellow rebels faced the anger of their fellow Republicans at the Monday meeting.
“People were upset,” the Tennessee Republican told reporters. “Some people were mad and they’ve got a right to be mad. But I’ve got a right to represent my constituents too.”
House Republicans face new pressure to select a speaker after Israel declared war on Sunday, following a rare attack by Hamas militants that has prompted calls for more U.S. military aid.
In their first gathering since McCarthy’s ouster, House Republicans were due to meet on Monday evening.
Republicans were expected to hear from speaker candidates behind closed doors on Tuesday and vote to choose their nominee on Wednesday. There could be a House floor vote to elect a replacement for McCarthy later in the week.
Until then, the chamber cannot approve new aid.
Representatives Steve Scalise, the No. 2 House Republican, and Jim Jordan, a leader of the party’s conservative wing, are campaigning to succeed McCarthy, but neither candidate has the election sewn up. At least one other lawmaker, Kevin Hern, has said he may run as well.
Eight Republicans on Oct. 3 joined all House Democrats in a vote to remove McCarthy as speaker, the first time in history that the House removed its leader. McCarthy told reporters that day he would not make another run for speaker.
The full House votes on a speaker. Republicans hold a 221-212 majority and can only spare four votes if opposition Democrats stick together.
(Reporting by Richard Cowan, Katharine Jackson and David Morgan; Editing by Scott Malone, Grant McCool and Jamie Freed)