Conservatives are not sold on the idea of Rep. Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanTrump digs in amid uproar on zero tolerance policy Mark Sanford’s troubles did not begin with Trump NY Post blasts Trump, GOP over separating families at border MORE (R-Wis.) as Speaker.

While top House Republicans are trying to push a reluctant Ryan into the job, on the grounds that he alone can unify the conference, conservative lawmakers gave a decidedly cool response Friday when asked if they want him to be their new leader.

ADVERTISEMENT
Several GOP lawmakers noted that Ryan has repeatedly said he is not interested in the job, while appearing less than convinced that he is the only viable candidate.

“The name came out,” said Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) after Friday’s private GOP meeting. “Last I knew, [Ryan] definitely didn’t want to do it.”

Huelskamp also criticized one of Ryan’s major legislative achievements in Congress, the two-year budget agreement he hammered out with Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayIBM-led coalition pushes senators for action on better tech skills training Members of Congress demand new federal gender pay audit Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — Health chief grilled on Trump drug pricing plan, ObamaCare case MORE (D-Wash.) in 2013.

The Kansas Republican noted that he opposed the pact, “as did a lot of other people,” and pointed out lawmakers in both parties are now pushing to further ease the spending caps it established.

“A lot of folks want to break that up already,” Huelskamp said.

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) declined to weigh in on Ryan as Speaker, noting only that his group had earlier backed Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.) for the job.

And Rep. John FlemingJohn Calvin FlemingCoast Guard suspends search for missing Ohio plane Freedom Caucus member to bring up bill on impeaching IRS chief GOP seeks to make it 52 MORE (R-La.) dismissed the idea of a Ryan groundswell.

“I think that’s more media-driven. I think that’s you guys who keep talking about Paul Ryan,” he said. “Paul has made it clear he’s not interested."

For his part, Ryan has repeatedly rebuffed calls for him to take over as the head House Republican. On Friday, a Ryan spokesman reiterated that the 2012 vice presidential candidate is “still not running for Speaker.”

Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashAmash fires back at Trump over Sanford primary tweet Trump rips GOP's Sanford on primary day: 'He's better off in Argentina' Overnight Defense: Trump, Kim poised for historic summit | Trump blasts 'haters and losers' hours before meeting | Defense bill to include ZTE penalties | Lawmakers sound alarm over 'catastrophic' Yemen offensive MORE (R-Mich.) said the Freedom Caucus continues to back Webster. Still, he said Ryan would probably be a more palatable option compared to BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerZeal, this time from the center Juan Williams: The GOP's deal with the devil Hillicon Valley: Trump hits China with massive tech tariffs | Facebook meets with GOP leaders over bias allegations | Judge sends Manafort to jail ahead of trial | AT&T completes Time Warner purchase MORE or House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who dropped out of the Speaker’s race on Thursday.

"I think that Paul Ryan would be a more acceptable candidate than the current leadership team, primarily because he’s not in the current leadership team. And I believe he’d provide a different approach," Amash said.

Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) said that if hardliners reject Ryan, "they would lose all credibility."

"Listen, these guys don't know what they're doing anyway. They would prove to the American people they have no idea what they're talking about," King said.

The level of support for Ryan among conservatives is critical, given that it was rightward pressure that originally pushed out Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerZeal, this time from the center Juan Williams: The GOP's deal with the devil Hillicon Valley: Trump hits China with massive tech tariffs | Facebook meets with GOP leaders over bias allegations | Judge sends Manafort to jail ahead of trial | AT&T completes Time Warner purchase MORE (R-Ohio) and helped upend the campaign by McCarthy to replace him.

Despite being broadly popular among House Republicans, McCarthy stunned his colleagues Thursday by dropping out of the race, minutes before a vote he was expected to win.

He told members he was removing himself because he did not think he would be able to unite the divided Republican conference and win over enough conservatives.

—Sarah Ferris and Cristina Marcos contributed.