Another GOP rep refuses to say whether he’ll back Ryan as Speaker

Rep. Mike Pompeo, the Kansas Republican who flirted with a bid for Speaker last year, repeatedly declined to say Friday night whether he would vote to give Paul Ryan another two years as House Speaker. 

In a phone interview with The Hill, Pompeo also wouldn’t say whether he believed Ryan would be reelected Speaker in January, or if he would consider jumping in the race for Speaker if Ryan backed out.

Instead, Pompeo said he’ll be entirely focused these next “96 hours” on electing GOP nominee Donald Trump and down-ballot Republicans.

Pompeo’s remarks come amid speculation from Republican lawmakers that Ryan (R-Wis.) might soon step down from his leadership post over worries he doesn’t have sufficient support in his GOP conference.  

In a radio interview Friday, Ryan rejected that report and insisted that he’s running for Speaker. And top members of his leadership team, including Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), issued statements Friday saying they supported Ryan staying put.

But the fact that a reliable Republican like Pompeo is withholding his endorsement has to give the Speaker and his team heartburn.

Ryan has frequently clashed with the far-right Freedom Caucus, but Pompeo isn’t part of that band of conservative rebels. Then-Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) appointed Pompeo to both the special Benghazi Committee and the Intelligence Committee, and Ryan kept him there when he took the reins of power. 

What’s more, Pompeo voted for Boehner in past Speaker elections, and he cast a ballot for Ryan in last October’s Speaker vote. If Pompeo ditches Ryan, it could be a signal that more mainstream Republicans are preparing to revolt against the Speaker.

Asked if he believed Ryan was poised to win reelection as Speaker in a Jan. 3 floor vote, Pompeo demurred.

“The conversations that I think are important are about making the Republican conference united,” said Pompeo, adding that his GOP colleagues after Tuesday will either come together to work with a President Trump or push back on a President Hillary Clinton.

“I am incredibly hopeful we will figure out as a conference how to achieve that, whether it’s with Paul or someone else,” Pompeo said. “The who” is secondary to the GOP agenda, he said, but “the how and the why are imperative to get right.” 

Pompeo also was asked three times whether he planned to vote for Ryan in the January roll call on the House floor. But the three-term congressman would not directly answer the question.

“I’m trying to get to an outcome; all of my conversations with my colleagues have focused on the outcome, not the ‘who,’” Pompeo said. “If we can get the Republican conference united, we can be successful.” 

Other GOP lawmakers have also refused to say whether they will vote for Ryan. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) told CNN Friday he didn’t know if he would back Ryan this time around. And Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) repeatedly declined to say in a CNBC interview whether Ryan should keep his job. So have other Freedom members like Reps. Dave Brat (R-Va.) and Mark Meadows (R-N.C.).

Pompeo never joined the roughly 40-member Freedom group, but he’s very conservative and was swept into Congress by the Tea Party wave in 2010. Since then, he’s shown some ambition, weighing a Speaker’s bid last fall and putting out feelers earlier this year for a possible primary challenge to Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas). He ultimately decided against a Senate run.

Tags Boehner Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Jerry Moran John Boehner Paul Ryan
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