Scalise allies upset over Ryan blindside on McCarthy endorsement

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House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) did not give Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) a heads-up before publicly endorsing Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to be his successor, according to GOP sources upset by the move.

Allies of Scalise have expressed frustration that Ryan neglected to alert the majority whip before — or after — he told NBC’s Chuck Todd for a pre-taped segment on “Meet the Press” last week that both he and Scalise felt McCarthy was the “heir apparent” and “the right guy to step up” to the position.

Other members of Republican leadership were also in the dark ahead of Ryan’s high-profile endorsement of McCarthy, GOP sources told The Hill.

{mosads}While it’s hardly surprising that Ryan would back his top lieutenant for the job, the incident, which caught Scalise off guard, has escalated the growing tensions between leadership offices as lawmakers quietly jockey for the Speaker’s gavel.

“That’s not the way to run things, especially with a member of your leadership team,” one GOP lawmaker who is an ally of Scalise, told The Hill. “I would hope that there’s better communication in the future.”

Ryan’s office declined a request for comment.

Some are speculating that the endorsement was a play by Ryan to remain functional in his leadership role through January and quell the palace intrigue surrounding a potentially messy and protracted leadership battle.

But the move does not appear to have shut down the shadow race for Speaker between McCarthy, Scalise and perhaps a far-right alternative such as former Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).

While McCarthy, who hasn’t officially thrown his hat into the ring, has strong footing to take over the position, the No. 2 Republican has yet to lock down the conservative votes needed to reach 218, despite Ryan’s endorsement and his close relationship with the president.

Scalise has said he won’t challenge McCarthy in the race, but the No. 3 Republican expressed interest in the role should the majority leader fall short or opt against seeking the position.

Some of Scalise’s allies are still encouraging him to be prepared just in case McCarthy’s bid collapses, like it did in 2015.

Scalise, who has seen his political star rise since surviving a near-fatal shooting at a GOP baseball practice last summer, has been out of the Capitol this week as he recovers from a pre-planned surgery.

“Look, everybody wants to believe Kevin can do it. The onus is on him,” said one Republican lawmaker. “My point to Steve would be: you’re in no different position than you were before. You already said you weren’t going to run against Kevin. Let it all play out. If he can’t get it, you’re in the same spot you were before.”

Last Thursday, a day after his retirement announcement, Ryan suggested to reporters that Scalise would be supporting McCarthy for the Speaker’s gig — even though Scalise had not yet offered a public endorsement of the majority leader.

Some Scalise allies say the move essentially backed the majority whip into a corner.

It wasn’t until after Ryan’s public endorsement of McCarthy — which sources say blindsided Scalise when it dropped in a preview excerpt of “Meet the Press” that aired Friday — that the majority whip’s office put out an official statement saying Scalise would support McCarthy in a Speaker’s race.

“Whip Scalise’s focus remains on moving our conservative agenda forward and maintaining our Republican majority. When a Speaker’s race is called, he’ll be supporting Leader McCarthy,” said a spokesman.

Ryan said shortly after his retirement announcement that he had thoughts about who should replace him, hinting that he may wade into the race before he leaves.

GOP lawmakers say they were hardly surprised that Ryan would endorse McCarthy to be his successor, given that they once teamed up with former Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) to brand themselves as the “Young Guns” of the Republican party.

Still, some Republican members questioned the timing of Ryan’s endorsement.

“I don’t know why he had to do it now. I can understand that there would be a reason to endorse someone, but here we are in mid-April. It’s just too early,” said Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.), who says he would either support Scalise or Jordan for Speaker. “I understand shaking hands and saying you will support me. But not publicly.”

Scott Wong contributed.

Tags Eric Cantor Jim Jordan Kevin McCarthy Paul Ryan Speaker Steve Scalise Walter Jones

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