Republicans express doubts that Ryan can stay on as Speaker

Speculation is growing on Capitol Hill that 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 may need to relinquish his Speaker’s gavel soon, though few Republicans are publicly calling on him to resign.

More rank-and-file Republicans predicted Friday that the Wisconsin Republican probably won’t be able to hang on to the Speaker’s job for the rest of the year, despite Ryan’s insistence a day earlier that he would stick around until January and that no one in the GOP could raise more money ahead of the crucial midterm elections later this year.

“I think there's a lot of goodwill for Paul Ryan, but I don't know if there's so much goodwill that they'll let him stay as Speaker,” said longtime Rep. Joe BartonJoe Linus BartonUnending Pruitt controversies leave Republicans frustrated Hillicon Valley: Judge rules Trump can't block Twitter users | ISIS content finds a home on Google Plus | Rubio rips ZTE demands as 'terrible deal' | Bill would protect kids' data Lawmakers roll out bill to protect children from online data collection MORE (R-Texas), the former Energy and Commerce Committee chairman who is retiring this year. “I think nobody would have a problem if he resigned the speakership and stayed in Congress to fulfill a commitment to his constituents in Wisconsin."

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“I just think the pressure is going to build for him to step aside as Speaker and then let the conference pick a new leadership team,” Barton added.

So far, few Republicans have been willing to go on the record and call for Ryan to step down, a move that would trigger new leadership elections now rather than after the Nov. 6 elections.

But conservative Rep. Tom GravesJohn (Tom) Thomas GravesHouse committee approves spending bill that would boost IRS funding House panel advances financial services spending bill Georgia governor vetoes controversial hacking legislation MORE (R-Ga.), an ally of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Outcry raises pressure on GOP for immigration fix 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 McCarthy: 'The Mueller investigation has got to stop' MORE (R-Calif.), has publicly pushed for a new leadership team to be installed now following Ryan’s announcement this week that he’s not running for reelection this fall.

Graves met with Ryan on Thursday about the matter, The Hill confirmed. “It was a positive conversation. Rep. Graves is confident Speaker Ryan will do what’s best for the conference,” said a Graves aide.

And centrist Rep. Adam KinzingerAdam Daniel Kinzinger‘Stingray’ spying prompts fears about surveillance FBI head warns against Trump deal with ZTE GOP split on immigration is a crisis for Ryan’s team MORE (R-Ill.) told the Chicago Sun-Times it’d be better to hold those leadership elections “sooner than later.”

“It would be nice to kind of get this stuff done, because what you don’t want is about an eight-month process where people are running for Speaker because it’s very tough,” Kinzinger told the newspaper.

On Friday, a GOP lawmaker closely aligned with leadership told The Hill he, too, would like to see the succession question resolved now.

“There’s a strong sense of wanting to give Paul his breathing room and a chance to talk about his legacy,” said the GOP lawmaker. “But there is a growing sentiment in the conference that the election should be held sooner so that we don’t have a lame-duck Speaker heading into the midterms.”

It’s unclear, however, how many Republicans feel the same way. Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Ryan swatted down questions of whether having an internal, seven-month-long race for Speaker would distract from GOP efforts to hold the House majority. And Ryan said that after holding numerous conversations with fellow Republicans, he had overwhelming support to remain Speaker until January.

“It makes no sense to take the biggest fundraiser off the field. And I think almost all of our members see it that way as well,” Ryan said.

Ryan’s office did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

Among the many GOP lawmakers who’ve said Ryan should finish out his two-year term as Speaker were Reps. Frank LoBiondoFrank Alo LoBiondoGOP House nominee calls diversity a 'bunch of crap' and 'un-American' Cook Political Report shifts 5 races after California, NJ primaries N.J. state senator wins Dem nomination in bid to replace LoBiondo MORE (R-N.J.), Leonard LanceLeonard LanceGOP super PAC targets House districts with new M ad buys GOP staves off immigration revolt — for now House Republicans wrestle over immigration deal MORE (R-N.J.), Pete KingPeter (Pete) Thomas KingGrimm condemns Donovan after Trump endorsement: Endorsements can't change facts Trump backs Donovan in New York House race The Memo: 'Roseanne' storm revives debate over Trump MORE (R-N.Y.), Walter JonesWalter Beaman JonesOvernight 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 Lawmakers circulate 'urgent call' for Mattis to prevent 'catastrophic' Yemen offensive GOP staves off immigration revolt — for now MORE (R-N.C.), Mo BrooksMorris (Mo) Jackson BrooksLoyalty to Donald Trump is new normal for the Republican Party GOP rep on Trump calling media an enemy: 'I would call it a political foe' Alabama sues Census Bureau for counting undocumented immigrants MORE (R-Ala.), Mark SanfordMarshall (Mark) Clement SanfordMark Sanford’s troubles did not begin with Trump Ex-GOP lawmaker: Every Republican privately admits Trump lies all the time but is afraid to say it publicly The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Outcry raises pressure on GOP for immigration fix MORE (R-S.C.), Bill FloresWilliam (Bill) Hose FloresGOP revolts multiply against retiring Ryan Republicans express doubts that Ryan can stay on as Speaker McCarthy says early leadership election to replace Ryan unlikely MORE (R-Texas) and Ryan CostelloRyan Anthony CostellloGOP chairwoman: Anyone who doesn't support Trump 'will be making a mistake' GOP immigration compromise faces more hurdles in House Trump tightens grip on GOP MORE (R-Pa.).

“I believe the Speaker is best-positioned to lead our conference for the rest of the session, policy-wise, and as the single best fundraiser in the history of the House Republican Conference,” Costello told The Hill. “A leadership contest in the interim is a distraction and could lead to unnecessary divisions.”

The race to replace Ryan had already been shaping up as a contest between McCarthy, Ryan’s top deputy, and Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseTrump digs in amid uproar on zero tolerance policy Sunday Shows preview: Lawmakers, Trump allies discuss Russia probe, migrant family separation Dems best GOP as Scalise returns for annual charity baseball game MORE (R-La.), the No. 3 GOP leader, though neither has publicly declared a bid for Speaker.

Friday added a new wrinkle to the Speaker sweepstakes. Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanAnti-Trump Republicans better look out — voters might send you packing Trump immigration comments spark chaos in GOP Key conservative presses for shield law after seizure of NYT reporter’s records MORE (R-Ohio), the former chairman of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, said that he was mulling over a bid for the top leadership post.

Rep. Thomas MassieThomas Harold MassieSenate braces for Trump showdown over Chinese telecom giant 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 Lawmakers circulate 'urgent call' for Mattis to prevent 'catastrophic' Yemen offensive MORE (R-Ky.), a Jordan ally who is not a Freedom Caucus member, said there’s just no way impatient Republicans can wait eight months to figure out who should be the next leader of the 237-member GOP conference.

“This just seems like such an improbable proposition, that we would have a lame-duck Speaker for eight months,” Massie said. “I don’t know if the palace can sustain that much intrigue.”

“It seems improbable that you could have this kind of vacuum.”

Melanie Zanona and Juliegrace Brufke contributed.