Exclusive: House Republicans recruited Carson for Speaker

Greg Nash

House Republicans reached out to GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson in 2014 about replacing John BoehnerJohn BoehnerHouse GOP faces dilemma on spending bills Overnight Finance: Puerto Rico bill clears panel | IRS chief vows to finish term | Bill would require nominees to release tax returns Overnight Defense: Pentagon chief fears sequestration's return MORE as Speaker of the House, Carson told The Hill on Thursday.

“They were looking for an alternative, they were looking for someone strong and courageous who might really be able to add some spine and some backbone,” Carson said. “I was very flattered that there were several members that thought I’d fit the bill very well, but I think it played out correctly the way that it did.”

There is no rule stipulating that the Speaker be a member of the House.

ADVERTISEMENT
A second source with knowledge of the situation said that in 2014 “several” House conservatives summoned Carson to Capitol Hill to pitch him on the idea of becoming the next Speaker in the event that they were successful in voting the Ohio Republican out of the position in 2015.

Carson met with the Republicans, but said he turned down their offer because he was gearing up for a presidential run.

In explaining to The Hill why he declined, Carson took a passing swipe at Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioTrump encourages Rubio to reclaim Senate seat The Trail 2016: Interleague play Rubio: I'd speak on Trump's behalf at convention MORE (R-Fla.), who has been criticized for missing votes in the upper chamber.

“It would have pretty much ruined my presidential bid,” Carson said. “It would have been very difficult to do my job as the Speaker of the House while running for president. You’ve seen how difficult a time Sen. Rubio is having fulfilling his senatorial obligations. The Speaker of the House has even more obligations."

Carson declined to identify the House Republicans who approached him, but Rep. Matt SalmonMatt SalmonLGBT fight dooms spending bill on House floor A hearing brought to tears over Right to Try legislation Time for national Right to Try legislation MORE (R-Ariz.) told The Hill on Thursday that he was one of a group of three who did so.

House conservatives made several attempts to overthrow BoehnerJohn BoehnerHouse GOP faces dilemma on spending bills Overnight Finance: Puerto Rico bill clears panel | IRS chief vows to finish term | Bill would require nominees to release tax returns Overnight Defense: Pentagon chief fears sequestration's return MORE before he retired from office in 2015, but all fell flat.

In January of 2015, the floor vote for Speaker netted 25 votes against Boehner, but House Republicans were unable to coalesce around a consensus replacement. The second place vote-getter, Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.), only received 12 votes.

Carson on Thursday said “the jury is still out” on new Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanOvernight Finance: GOP faces dilemma on spending bills | CEOs push Congress on tax rules | Trump talks energy Overnight Energy: Trump outlines 'America First' energy plan in North Dakota Bible verse prompts GOP walkout after LGBT vote labeled a sin MORE (R-Wis.), but added he’s “very optimistic still” about the direction of the House under Ryan’s leadership.

— Scott Wong contributed. This story was updated at 5:57 p.m.

More in Presidential races

Report: Romney recruiting Kasich, Sasse for third-party option

Read more »