Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

White House on McCarthy: 'Rupture in the Republican Party'

“Republicans need to learn that doing their job doesn’t mean catering to the extreme-right wing,” press secretary Josh Earnest said Thursday.

It may be easy to “poke fun at the chaos” in the House Re­pub­lic­an con­fer­ence, but the White House has com­pas­sion for the plight of the next House speak­er.

Shortly after news broke Thursday that House Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Kev­in Mc­Carthy, the front-run­ner to suc­ceed John Boehner, would be drop­ping out of the race, White House press sec­ret­ary Josh Earn­est told re­port­ers that the bomb­shell high­lighted a “stark di­vide” among Re­pub­lic­ans.

“The fact is the chal­lenge that is fa­cing the next Re­pub­lic­an speak­er of the House, re­gard­less of who it is, is the same chal­lenge John Boehner faced,” he said. “And that is simply to unite a di­vided Re­pub­lic­an caucus.”

Earn­est blamed a group of con­ser­vat­ive Re­pub­lic­ans, known as the Free­dom Caucus, “that places their own ex­treme ideo­logy ahead of every­one else and cer­tainly ahead of ef­fect­ive gov­ernance of the coun­try, and also as of today, ef­fect­ive gov­ernance of the House Re­pub­lic­an caucus.” Those law­makers fought Boehner and oth­er mod­er­ate Re­pub­lic­ans in the House for more ag­gress­ively con­ser­vat­ive policies.

“Re­pub­lic­ans need to learn that do­ing their job doesn’t mean ca­ter­ing to the ex­treme-right wing,” he said.

With the speak­er’s elec­tion also post­poned, the ad­min­is­tra­tion is left with even more un­cer­tainty about ne­go­ti­ations over a pos­sible gov­ern­ment shut­down and rais­ing the debt ceil­ing.

“There’s a path to solv­ing these prob­lems,” Earn­est said, “but there will not be a path to ad­dress­ing these sig­ni­fic­ant chal­lenges if Re­pub­lic­ans choose to con­front them in a way that sat­is­fies the most ex­treme ideo­logues in their party.”

Like the rest of polit­ic­al Wash­ing­ton, Earn­est said Pres­id­ent Obama was sur­prised to hear the news. And he joked that “the White House did not get a heads-up” that Mc­Carthy was drop­ping out.

He de­clined to of­fer a re­com­mend­a­tion for an al­tern­at­ive, however, jok­ing that “an en­dorse­ment from me from here would not be viewed as an en­dorse­ment.”

And, al­lud­ing to former Vice Pres­id­ent Dick Cheney’s state­ment Wed­nes­day call­ing Mc­Carthy “a good man and a strong lead­er,” Earn­est smiled.

“I think it cer­tainly means that Dick Cheney’s en­dorse­ment doesn’t mean as much as it used to.”