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 RyanAEI names Robert Doar as new president GOP can't excommunicate King and ignore Trump playing to white supremacy and racism House vote fails to quell storm surrounding Steve King MORE (R-Wis.) is throwing his support behind Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyElise Stefanik seeks to tackle GOP’s women ‘crisis’ ahead of 2020 Steve King fundraising off controversy surrounding white supremacy comments House rejects GOP measure to pay workers but not open government 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 TrumpGillibrand cites spirituality in 2020 fight against Trump’s ‘dark’ values High school basketball team pulls out of game after controversy over fans with Trump sign Elise Stefanik seeks to tackle GOP’s women ‘crisis’ ahead of 2020 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 ScaliseDemocrats will push to retake vote on funding government after chaos on the floor Pelosi pulls State of the Union surprise on Trump House GOP blast Pelosi for suggesting State of the Union delay 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 BoehnerBreaking the impasse on shutdown, border security McCarthy, allies retaliate against Freedom Caucus leader House vote fails to quell storm surrounding Steve King 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 JordanMcCarthy, allies retaliate against Freedom Caucus leader Republicans request update on investigation into ex-FBI official accused of leaks GOP lawmakers rip Dems for calling Cohen to testify 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.