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House Republicans' Chaos Could Hurt GOP Fundraising

McCarthy's exit from the speaker's race and the chaos it caused could lead members to leave Congress. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Kevin McCarthy's shocking decision to drop his bid for speaker Thursday could cause problems for House Republican fundraising, multiple Republican strategists told CQ Roll Call.  

Speaker John A. Boehner said he will stay on until House Republicans choose his successor. But until that dust settles, some Republicans say they fear donors will keep their wallets closed until they know who will be helming the ship.  

"They know Republicans are going to be in the majority, but people are going to hold back until they know who the speaker is," said Bob Kish, a GOP consultant who works on House races.  

Raising money to help protect incumbents is one of leadership's top jobs. And both McCarthy and Boehner have been the best House Republican fundraisers.  

Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Mo., the National Republican Congressional Committee's finance chairwoman, acknowledged Boehner leaves some big shoes to fill.  

"I will tell you it will be tough to fill the void that John Boehner had built after 25 years," she said.

But Wagner said she's "feeling pretty good about where we are in terms of our fundraising and our candidate recruitment." And, she said, she hopes the uncertainty around leadership doesn't diminish fundraising, "because this is a majority that we need to maintain."

While the GOP figures out its internal party politics, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will likely seize on the GOP unrest and continue to fill its bank account — something that could help as Democrats seek to cut into the GOP's 30-seat majority.  

In the immediate aftermath of McCarthy's announcement, a handful of members floated the idea of an interim speaker  who would serve out the rest of the 114th Congress. A new speaker would then be elected in January 2017, when the new Congress would be sworn in — assuming Republicans keep their House majority in 2016, as expected.  

NRCC Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., said Thursday outside of House votes that some members in the conference asked him to run for interim speaker, if that route is chosen. He said he "would consider it," but has "made no plans" to move toward a bid.  

Walden, whose current role already tasks him with raising money to protect the GOP House majority, could help plug the gap in a potential fundraising slowdown.  

It's also unclear whether the unrest within leadership, coupled with impending deadlines for raising the debt limit and the need to fund the government again when the current continuing resolution runs out in early December could lead some members to retire .  

A handful of moderate Republicans have already announced the 114th Congress will be their last, including Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., whose exit provides Democrats with a pick-up opportunity in a seat that President Barack Obama carried in both 2008 and 2012.  

But multiple members of Congress and Republican Hill aides said a mass exodus is a ways off — if it is to happen at all.  

"I think we’re still weeks away from folks being at that point of saying, 'I’m done,'" one House Republican chief of staff said.  

For now, Republicans are just waiting to see what happens.  

"It makes, I think, frankly all of us say we have an opportunity to make this caucus, to make this party, stronger," Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., said after McCarthy's announcement. "And we're going to take advantage of whatever that is now."  

Related: In Majority Leader Race, Scalise Lapping Price in This Key Measure    

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