Ryan rebuffs calls that he make a speedier exit

Ryan rebuffs calls that he make a speedier exit
© Greg Nash

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanDems fight to protect Mueller amid Rosenstein rumors Jordan wants Rosenstein to testify before House Judiciary Committee Kamala Harris calls for Senate to protect Mueller probe as Rosenstein faces potential dismissal MORE (R-Wis.) said Thursday he’s not going anywhere anytime soon — despite a very small band of lawmakers who say he should relinquish the Speaker’s gavel now.

A day after he announced he’ll leave Congress in January, Ryan forcefully pushed back on calls within his GOP conference to resign now to avoid a messy, protracted leadership race that could prove distracting before the pivotal midterm elections.  

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“I’ve said all along my plan is to stay here and run through the tape. … I’ve talked to a lot of members who think it’s in all of our best interest for this leadership team to stay in place and run through the tape,” Ryan told reporters on Thursday.

A defiant Ryan argued that he has been a prolific fundraiser for the GOP, breaking all records of past Speakers and funneling tens of millions of dollars to the House GOP's campaign arm, the National Republican Congressional Committee.

“I have shattered every fundraising record any Speaker has ever set. I came into this job with the goal to raise $20 million; I doubled it to $40 million,” Ryan said. “I not only hit that goal, I hit it eight months early.”

Ryan wasn’t finished, in case there were still any doubts.

“So there is nobody who has come close to being able to — raising the kinds of funds I have and still can raise funds for this majority,” the Speaker went on. “So it’s obviously in our interest to keeping our majority that every player is on the field, fighting for this majority, fundraising for this majority, and 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.”

Few Republicans have been willing to go on the record and urge Ryan to resign his leadership post early. But Rep. Tom GravesJohn (Tom) Thomas GravesThe stakes are sky-high for the pro-life cause in the upcoming midterms Dem senator: Congress should consider allowing companies to 'hack back' after cyberattacks House completes first half of 2019 spending bills MORE (R-Ga.), who is backing Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthy13 states accepted Sessions invitation to meeting on social media bias: report This week: Kavanaugh nomination thrown into further chaos How the Trump tax law passed: Breaking the gridlock  MORE (R-Calif.) in the race to succeed Ryan, told Politico having a lame-duck Speaker at the helm could hamper efforts to hold the House majority.

“We would have more success if there’s no ambiguity as to what the leadership structure might look like,” Graves told Politico. “Everybody wants our A-team in place, our strongest team in place, so we have the strongest outcome going into the election cycle.”

Another high-profile McCarthy backer, who asked to remain anonymous, also said it'd be better if Ryan resigned soon so that leadership races could be held.

“I think it is in the best interest of the conference to move forward quickly” with leadership races, the GOP lawmaker told The Hill.

The effort by Graves, who is running to become Appropriations Committee chairman, doesn’t appear to be the prevailing sentiment in the 237-member GOP conference. But other lawmakers said what transpires in the coming weeks could change that.

“I think as this marinates over the next couple weeks, we will see more members question the stability of the status quo,” one conservative GOP lawmaker told The Hill.

For now, neither leaders of the two conservative caucuses — Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsHouse Republican threatens to push for Rosenstein impeachment unless he testifies Dems fight to protect Mueller amid Rosenstein rumors Republicans threaten to subpoena Nellie Ohr MORE (R-N.C.) and Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark WalkerBradley (Mark) Mark WalkerOn The Money: Midterms to shake up House finance panel | Chamber chief says US not in trade war | Mulvaney moving CFPB unit out of DC | Conservatives frustrated over big spending bills Conservatives left frustrated as Congress passes big spending bills Trump's Puerto Rico tweets spark backlash MORE (R-N.C.) — are trying to push Ryan out.

But both conservatives suggested some sort of arrangement or deal could be brokered in the coming months that could resolve the question of who succeeds Ryan as leader of the GOP conference. Both McCarthy, the No. 2 leader, and Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseOn The Money: Midterms to shake up House finance panel | Chamber chief says US not in trade war | Mulvaney moving CFPB unit out of DC | Conservatives frustrated over big spending bills Midterms to shake up top posts on House finance panel On The Money: Senate approves 4B spending bill | China imposes new tariffs on billion in US goods | Ross downplays new tariffs: 'Nobody's going to actually notice' MORE (R-La.), the No. 3 leader, are jockeying behind the scenes to replace Ryan.

“It's tenable” that Ryan remains Speaker until January, Meadows said, but “I don't know that it’s probable.”

“I think who the next Speaker … will certainly be decided before November,” Meadows said. “Once that kind of gets settled on, whether it’s in fact a vote, which I doubt, or this is the heir apparent, then there will be a transition in terms of direction.”

Added Walker: “I think there’s always a chance that you’ll have an internal agreement that could be worked out where it takes the surprise element out of it in November.”

Melanie Zanona contributed.