Republicans express doubts that Ryan can stay on as Speaker
Speculation is growing on Capitol Hill that Paul Ryan 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 Barton (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.”
“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 Graves (R-Ga.), an ally of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (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 Kinzinger (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 LoBiondo (R-N.J.), Leonard Lance (R-N.J.), Pete King (R-N.Y.), Walter Jones (R-N.C.), Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), Bill Flores (R-Texas) and Ryan Costello (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 Scalise (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 Jordan (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 Massie (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.
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