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 RyanAmash: Trump incorrect in claiming Congress didn't subpoena Obama officials Democrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights Three-way clash set to dominate Democratic debate MORE (R-Wis.) is throwing his support behind Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyThe comments and actions of Schiff demand his formal censure Trump called Pelosi a 'third-rate politician' during Syria meeting, top Democrats say Lawmakers toast Greta Van Susteren's new show 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 TrumpGOP congressman slams Trump over report that U.S. bombed former anti-ISIS coalition headquarters US to restore 'targeted assistance' to Central American countries after migration deal Trump says lawmakers should censure Schiff 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 ScaliseSchiff says committees will eventually make impeachment inquiry transcripts public Kinzinger challenges Trump's defense chief on Syria in closed-door meeting House Republicans expected to force vote on revised Schiff censure 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 BoehnerIs Congress retrievable? Boehner reveals portrait done by George W. Bush Meadows to be replaced by Biggs as Freedom Caucus leader 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 JordanFormer Ukraine envoy unexpectedly returns to Capitol Hill Top State Department official arrives for testimony in impeachment probe 10 top Republicans who continue to deny the undeniable 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.