Paul Ryan’s reluctance could spark Speakership scramble

Paul Ryan’s reluctance could spark Speakership scramble

If Rep. Paul RyanPaul RyanThe Hill's Whip List: Who to watch on GOP's new ObamaCare bill GOP takes step forward on ObamaCare replacement, but centrists elusive WH to Dems: We’ll continue paying ObamaCare subsidies MORE runs for Speaker of the House, it will be on his own terms.

The Wisconsin Republican has made clear he doesn’t want the top leadership job. But his allies have said he’s reluctantly open to a bid, as long as there are no strings attached and he can win near-unanimous support from the 247-member GOP conference.

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Conservatives, however, say the chances of that happening are almost zero. The House Freedom Caucus has already thrown its support behind Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.), and the influential bloc of 40 ultra-conservative rebels has been calling forcefully for a major overhaul of internal conference rules — a promise Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) decided he couldn’t fulfill before bowing out of the Speaker’s race this month.

Their list of demands is long. Freedom Caucus members want the House to return to “regular order,” in which more bills move through committees and receive votes on the floor. They want to give rank-and-file members more say in who gets committee gavels and slots. They want guarantees the next Speaker won’t retaliate against fellow Republicans.

And those are just the big-ticket items.

“Much of the House Freedom Caucus believes Ryan would be a strong candidate for Speaker, but I don’t see any scenario where they willingly agree to table any requests regarding rules changes,”one Freedom Caucus source said Monday, 

Adam Brandon, CEO of the Tea Party-aligned -FreedomWorks, said Ryan could win backing from many in the Freedom Caucus if he vowed to implement some of their rule reforms.

“But if he comes out and says, ‘We’re all going in lockstep. I’m not making any special accommodation or any special promises,’ well, that could set up a showdown,” Brandon said in an interview in his office overlooking the Capitol Dome.

“There is going to be some tough arm-wrestling this week.”

Ryan spent the weeklong Columbus Day recess with his family at home in Wisconsin, where he didn’t make any calls to his House GOP colleagues. So the first opportunity they’ll have to hear from him will be Tuesday evening during voting, which will be followed by a special meeting of House Republicans.

“There is no update, and he looks forward to listening to and speaking with his colleagues this week,” said Ryan spokesman Brendan Buck.

While Ryan remained mum over the break, some of his allies laid out exactly how the Ways and Means Committee chairman might be convinced to run. Some Ryan allies told CBS News he simply would not “horse trade” or negotiate with the Freedom Caucus for a job he never sought in the first place. Other Ryan friends have said he’d only want the post if he can win by unanimous acclamation — a nearly impossible feat given the current state of the fractious GOP caucus.

Republicans closely watching the Ryan deliberations say those remarks from allies could be interpreted two ways. Either Ryan is seriously considering launching a bid to succeed outgoing Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerLobbyists bounce back under Trump Business groups silent on Trump's Ex-Im nominee Chaffetz won't run for reelection MORE (R-Ohio) and wants to position himself to be successful in that role, or he’s setting up a rationale for not running, namely that the Freedom Caucus won’t agree to handing him a no-strings-attached Speakership.

“He was never interested in the job, so I guess that makes it less likely that he would negotiate” with the Freedom Caucus, said one GOP lawmaker.

If Ryan runs, Oversight Committee Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzOversight Dems want vote on Trump tax return bill Michael Flynn’s troubles mount Overnight Cybersecurity: DNC hackers also targeted French presidential candidate | Ex-acting AG Yates to testify at Senate Russia hearing MORE (R-Utah) said he would drop out of the race and back Ryan. But Webster, the only other declared candidate for the position, said he would be unfazed by a challenge from the 45-year-old rising star who was Mitt Romney’s running mate in the 2012 presidential election.  

“I wouldn’t quit,” Webster told The Hill in a recent phone interview. “I’m not running against people. I’m running against an institution that is broken.”

But if Ryan backs out, Webster will have plenty of company. More than a dozen Republicans could make a play for Speaker if Ryan doesn’t run.

The growing list of Speaker wannabes include four powerful Texans: Republican Study Committee Chairman Bill FloresBill FloresRyan transfers record M to House GOP's campaign arm in March Trump warns Republicans ahead of healthcare vote The Hill's Whip List: 36 GOP no votes on ObamaCare repeal plan MORE, Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mike McCaul and Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway.

Others who are putting out feelers are Reps. Lynn -Westmoreland (R-Ga.) and -Mike -Pompeo (R-Kan.), both members of the House Select Benghazi Committee; Reps. Marsha -Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Jim Renacci (R-Ohio); and freshman Rep. Ryan -Zinke (R-Mont.), a retired Navy SEAL.

Then there are names that other Republicans have floated: Rep. Greg -Walden (Ore.), who runs the House GOP’s campaign arm; Rep. Tom Cole (Okla.), a close BoehnerJohn BoehnerLobbyists bounce back under Trump Business groups silent on Trump's Ex-Im nominee Chaffetz won't run for reelection MORE ally and former member of leadership; Rep. Matt SalmonMatt SalmonConservative activists want action from Trump Senators fear fallout of nuclear option Western Republicans seek new federal appeals court MORE (Ariz.), a Freedom Caucus co-founder; and two retiring lawmakers, Education Committee Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.) and -House Administration Committee Chairwoman Candice Miller (R-Mich.).

“It’s kind of like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, isn’t it?” one of the potential Speaker candidates joked.