House GOP leaders: Paul Ryan owes us

House GOP leaders: Paul Ryan owes us
© Greg Nash

Senior Republican leaders say they believe Rep. Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanKenosha will be a good bellwether in 2020 At indoor rally, Pence says election runs through Wisconsin Juan Williams: Breaking down the debates MORE (R-Wis.) owes it to the party to take the job as Speaker, even as he took another stand against the post Friday.

“You know what, he needs to do this for the team,” said Rep. Fred UptonFrederick (Fred) Stephen UptonOn Paycheck Protection Program, streamlined forgiveness is key Hispanic Caucus campaign arm endorses slate of non-Hispanic candidates Progressives soaring after big primary night MORE (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. 

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“He clearly doesn't want the job,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a long-serving member on the GOP leadership team. “But honestly this is a case where the job is seeking the man, and we need him.”

The Republican Party is almost universally trying to draft the reluctant Ryan into the race. Ryan has received a barrage of phone calls from key party leaders, from former presidential candidate Mitt Romney to current House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

Ryan has repeatedly signaled resistance to taking on the job, which comes with demanding fundraising duties along with the role of taming an increasingly unruly conservative caucus. 

He has also told lawmakers that he is content as chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee with an ambitious tax reform agenda. That role could help elevate a presidential bid down the road, unlike a contentious reign as speaker.

Ryan released a third statement Friday morning that reiterated he is still not running for the Speakership and dismissed more questions later that afternoon. Swarmed by reporters as he left the Capitol, all he said was: “The Packers are at home. They're going to beat the Rams. Take care folks.” 

Some members say it’s Ryan’s duty to take the post at a time when even the House’s No. 2 House Republican believes they’ve hit “rock bottom.”

Even members who are currently eyeing the speakership — Rep. Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzThe myth of the conservative bestseller Elijah Cummings, Democratic chairman and powerful Trump critic, dies at 68 House Oversight panel demands DeVos turn over personal email records MORE (R-Utah) and Lynn WestmorelandLeon (Lynn) Acton WestmorelandEconomy and health intertwined in the fight against coronavirus Juan Williams: GOP to blame for civility's breakdown Veteran GOP lawmaker Westmoreland to retire MORE (R-Ga) — have said they would clear the path if Ryan chose to step up.

“Part of the reason I got into the race was because people like Paul Ryan weren't getting into the race,” Chaffetz told reporters Friday morning. “I'm a huge fan of Paul Ryan. I would hope he would do it.”

Cole said Ryan’s ascension to Speaker would be a necessary self-sacrifice — similar to the “two very selfless acts” made by both Boehner and McCarthy to step aside.

“It’s awfully hard when you see two people make sacrifices like that, not to sacrifice yourself,” said Cole, who added that he has personally spoken to Ryan. 

It’s also something that Ryan owes to the Republican Party nationally ahead of an election year, he said: “Everyone from grassroots to senior party officials know that this is extremely important to have the right person in this job right now and that person is Paul Ryan.”

Ryan became the immediate front-runner for the speakership after House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyTrump asked Chamber of Commerce to reconsider Democratic endorsements: report The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association - White House moves closer to Pelosi on virus relief bill Trump's sharp words put CDC director on hot seat MORE (R-Calif.) shocked the party by pulling out of the Speaker’s race, minutes before the election. 

In a closed-door meeting Friday morning, Boehner urged the caucus not to pick sides or to pledge support for only one candidate. He didn’t announce a date for the rescheduled elections but said he still hopes it can take place before Oct. 30, when he plans to leave office. Ryan did not speak during the meeting and left through a backdoor to avoid press. 

The nine-term Wisconsin lawmaker has even tried to evade the personal pleas from his Republican colleagues on the floor.

“I talked to him on the floor yesterday, and I said, ‘Paul you gotta run,’ and he said, ‘I gotta go sit next to Sensenbrenner.’ Part of that is that Sensenbrenner is known as such as grouch that he figured nobody will want to talk to him on the floor,” Upton said Friday with a laugh.

Upton was referring to longtime Wisconsin Republican lawmaker Jim Sensenbrenner.