(WASHINGTON) — Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy, deposed just last week as House speaker, on Monday didn’t rule out returning to that position as he spoke out against the Hamas attack on Israel.
Touting his own experience as a strong supporter of Israel, McCarthy said President Joe Biden’s “first priority” should be rescuing any American hostages being held by Hamas.
At least nine Americans have been killed in Israel since Saturday’s attack, a U.S. official confirmed Monday.
“This administration must also make clear that harming any American will really result in the wrath of the United States,” McCarthy said. “We cannot repeat what happened in Afghanistan. It must be clear that we do not negotiate with terrorists and no American will be left behind.”
“Now is the time for action,” McCarthy said as he held an unusual news conference in the Capitol while much of Washington marked a federal holiday. “America needs a five-point plan to meet this moment, to help our ally Israel and to strengthen our own future.”
The other aspects of McCarthy’s plan include resupplying Israel’s munitions; confronting Iran; boosting national security; and confronting domestic antisemitism.
McCarthy also shared his message for Biden.
“And to the president, turn off the barbecue and speak to the American people,” he said — a swipe at the Bidens for holding a barbecue on Sunday for White House residence staff and their families.
President Biden on Saturday condemned the “appalling assault” on Israel and vowed his administration’s support for Israel’s security is “rock solid and unwavering.” Biden had no public events on Monday, however, prompting criticism from some Republicans.
McCarthy was ousted from speakership last week in a historic vote, with eight Republican rebels voting to remove him.
The unprecedented vote has left the House essentially paralyzed without a speaker. Two Republicans, Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Steve Scalise of Louisiana, have thrown their hats into the ring for the position. House Republicans are set to hold a candidate forum Tuesday and their own conference speaker election as early as Wednesday.
McCarthy was asked on Monday if he envisioned any scenario in which he’d be a candidate, and didn’t dismiss the idea — a shift since his statement last week that he would not be running again.
“I’ll allow the conference to make whatever decision,” he replied, referring to House Republicans meeting this week to choose a new leader.
McCarthy stressed his own experience leading bipartisan delegations to Israel, and said Israel President Isaac Herzog called him “as a friend” amid last week’s speakership showdown.
ABC News Senior Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott pressed McCarthy about what message it sent to allies and the free world that the House of Representatives is without a new speaker amid the crisis.
“It’s wrong. It’s wrong,” McCarthy said, adding: “We are living in very dangerous times. The pettiness has got to stop.”
–ABC News’ Rachel Scott, Lauren Peller, Benjamin Siegel and Arthur Jones II contributed to this report.
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