Ryan backs McCarthy for Speaker: He's 'the right person'

Ryan backs McCarthy for Speaker: He's 'the right person'
© Greg Nash

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanPelosi: 'Thug' Putin not welcome in Congress Interior fast tracks study of drilling's Arctic impact: report Dems unveil slate of measures to ratchet up pressure on Russia MORE (R-Wis.) is throwing his support behind Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyHouse leaders clash over resolution backing ICE House backs resolution expressing support for ICE House GOP reverses, cancels vote on Dem bill to abolish ICE MORE to be his successor, giving a boost to the California Republican.

"We all think that Kevin is the right person,” Ryan told Chuck Todd in an excerpt of an interview for NBC's "Meet the Press" released Friday.

The move helps elevate the No. 2 House Republican in a bid to replace Ryan and potentially heads off a messy and protracted leadership battle before the midterm elections.

McCarthy, Ryan’s top lieutenant and a close ally of President TrumpDonald John TrumpSchiff: Surveillance warrant docs show that Nunes memo 'misrepresented and distorted these applications' Chicago detention facility under investigation following allegations of abuse of migrant children Ex-Trump aide: Surveillance warrants are 'complete ignorance' and 'insanity' MORE, has not formally thrown his hat into the ring to replace Ryan, but has long been viewed as a Speaker-in-waiting since he has the most direct path to the job.

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Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseOvernight Energy: Proposed rule would roll back endangered species protections | House passes Interior, EPA spending | House votes to disavow carbon tax House votes to disavow carbon tax Why the rush to condemn a carbon tax? MORE (R-La.) has also expressed openness to running for the position, but said this week he would not run against McCarthy.

McCarthy would still to need lock up 218 votes to secure the Speakership if the GOP retains control of the House in November, or if Republicans decide to elect a Speaker before the midterms.

The California Republican abruptly dropped a bid for Speaker in 2015, following the exit of then-Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerFreedom Caucus members see openings in leadership Five GOP lawmakers mulling bid to lead conservative caucus Ex-lawmakers see tough job market with trade groups MORE (R-Ohio). McCarthy said at the time that he didn't have enough support to effectively preside over the GOP conference.

Ryan announced his official retirement plans on Wednesday, saying he will stick round until his term ends in January — though speculation has been growing about whether Ryan would be pressured to relinquish the gavel sooner.

Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanMore than 100 ex-Ohio State students share allegations of sexual misconduct by doctor: AP The Hill's Morning Report — Russia furor grips Washington Freedom Caucus members see openings in leadership MORE (R-Ohio), a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, announced Friday morning that he was considering a leadership bid. 

The Freedom Caucus is looking to flex its muscle again in the leadership race this year, and may seek to extract promises from McCarthy in exchange for their support.

The group of roughly 30 conservative hard-liners is an influential voting bloc in Congress. If they decide to put up their own long-shot candidate like Jordan, that would draw conservative votes away from McCarthy and step up the likelihood that the No. 2 Republican would seek to cut a deal with the group.

Some lawmakers also argue that a key factor in the Speaker's race may be an endorsement from Trump.

McCarthy was one of the earliest congressional backers of Trump, and he has been publicly and privately vying for the president's support in recent weeks. But it's unclear whether Trump will get involved in a leadership race on Capitol Hill.