Congressional reporters are used to competing with each other to break news, but there is a new kid on the block with a distinct advantage.
According to a list compiled by Republican digital strategist Patrick Ruffini, the first person to tweet Thursday that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy had told his GOP colleagues he was dropping out of the race for speaker was Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Mich.
I think McCarthy just pulled out of the race...— Rep. Bill Huizenga (@RepHuizenga) October 8, 2015
Huizenga, 46, had live-tweeted the previous newsy GOP conference meeting on Sept. 25, when Speaker John A. Boehner announced his forthcoming resignation.
Speaker Boehner just announced in Conference that he will resign as Speaker and from Congress at the end of October. — Rep. Bill Huizenga (@RepHuizenga) September 25, 2015
In a Thursday afternoon interview with Roll Call, Huizenga, the father of five children, including a few teenagers, explained this is simply how the world works at this point.
"Obviously it’s newsworthy, first of all," Huizenga said. "Second of all, that’s how we communicate now. ... Look, constituents expect you to communicate differently. They’re not going to wait a day to have a press release sent out and then printed in the newspaper."
The voters in Michigan's 2nd District who follow the third-term congressman on Twitter were indeed given an inside glimpse of congressional politics throughout the day — and in real time.
I am warming to the idea of an "Interim" or "caretaker" Speaker to serve thru the rest of this term. Someone who has announced retirement.— Rep. Bill Huizenga (@RepHuizenga) October 8, 2015
Lots of debate and discussion on the floor during last vote series whether to have an interim Speaker. Various groups gathering to discuss. — Rep. Bill Huizenga (@RepHuizenga) October 8, 2015
Run Paul!!! House Speaker Race: Paul Ryan Courted by Republicans after McCarthy Drops Out | National Review Online http://t.co/sYZ7lxb1DR— Rep. Bill Huizenga (@RepHuizenga) October 9, 2015
Speaking with Roll Call later in the day, after a series of votes, Huizenga filled in some of the gaps.
The action all started at an 8 a.m. candidate forum, where McCarthy continued to make his sale to members. Four hours later, Huizenga chatted with the California Republican just before the official meeting was gaveled in with a prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance, but the majority leader didn't offer a hint about the decision he would announce.
"I told him later on the floor during votes, 'At least you could have winked at me or something,'" Huizenga said, to which McCarthy laughed. "What I don’t know is if he was at that candidate forum at 8 [a.m.] knowing what he was going to do, or if he made the decision after 10 [a.m.]."
As McCarthy took the stage after noon and began to announce his decision, some members were still milling around the back of the Ways and Means Committee room and loading their lunch plates. With a divided conference voting for one of three candidates, many were expecting a lengthy meeting to choose the party's speaker nominee.
"Everybody was expecting this white smoke, elect-the-pope kind of length of time. We were going to be hunkered in," Huizenga said.
The sound system was acting up, so it took some time for the entire room to grasp what was happening. But once they did, he said, "It’s just kind of stunned silence. Everybody was just like, 'Wait a minute, did we just really hear what we think we just heard?'"
Boehner then stood and said, "Well, in light of what’s going on, we’re going to be postponing the election." That's when Huizenga delivered his second tweet of the meeting.
We are postponing the election to a later date! — Rep. Bill Huizenga (@RepHuizenga) October 8, 2015
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