House Republicans Are Waiting for Paul Ryan to Make Up His Mind

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

House Re­pub­lic­ans met Fri­day morn­ing after a day of chaos Thursday that saw House Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Kev­in Mc­Carthy sud­denly drop his bid to suc­ceed John Boehner as speak­er of the House. And their hopes have largely turned to a man who only the day be­fore said, not for the first time, that he had no in­terest in the job. Right now, there’s no clear path for­ward un­less that changes. And a Ry­an bid still isn’t look­ing prom­ising.

After Mc­Carthy an­nounced he was out Thursday, House Ways and Means Chair­man Paul Ry­an quickly put out astate­ment say­ing he wanted no part of the speak­er job. “Now it is im­port­ant that we, as a con­fer­en­ce, take time to de­lib­er­ate and seek new can­did­ates for the speak­er­ship. While I am grate­ful for the en­cour­age­ment I’ve re­ceived, I will not be a can­did­ate.” he said. And on Fri­day, after the caucus meet­ing, a spokes­man for Ry­an said, “Chair­man Ry­an ap­pre­ci­ates the sup­port he’s get­ting from his col­leagues but is still not run­ning for speak­er.”

Many House Re­pub­lic­ans had left their morn­ing meet­ing with fin­gers-crossed for Ry­an to pos­sibly sweep in and lead the caucus out of Thursday’s tur­moil. 

Rep. Tom Cole, an Ok­lahoma Re­pub­lic­an and a lead­er­ship ally, said he thinks Ry­an is the right per­son to as­cend to the House’s top post. Rep. Dar­rell Issa, a Cali­for­nia Re­pub­lic­an who has not ruled out run­ning for the gavel him­self if the op­por­tun­ity arises, said, “Right now, I have a can­did­ate I am try­ing to get in­to the race, and I am go­ing to keep work­ing on him.” That would be Ry­an, who Issa says “is the con­sensus can­did­ate at this point.” Rep. Jason Chaf­fetz, the Utah Re­pub­lic­an who has been run­ning for the speak­er’s post, said he would drop his bid if Ry­an jumps in. “If Paul Ry­an got in­to the race, of course I would sup­port him,” he said. “He would be the kind of per­son that I could get ex­cited about, but part of the reas­on that I got in­to the race is be­cause people like Paul Ry­an wer­en’t step­ping up to do it.” House Re­pub­lic­an Con­fer­ence Chair Cathy Mc­Mor­ris Rodgers said she would also like to see Ry­an run.

Rep. Sean Duffy, who like Ry­an is a Wis­con­sin Re­pub­lic­an, said that Ry­an “hasn’t changed his mind” about jump­ing in­to the speak­er’s race dur­ing an in­ter­view Fri­day morn­ing with MS­N­BC’s Jose Diaz-Bal­art, but he ex­pressed hope that Ry­an will nev­er­the­less “re­con­sider and take the spot”:

He’s kind of a boy scout, he wants to do what’s right for the coun­try, and if he feels that no one else can take the po­s­i­tion and he’s the only guy left, which I think he prays that that’s not the case, I do think he’ll make a de­cision that’s not just right for his fam­ily, he has little kids, but also that’s right for the coun­try, and my hope is he’ll re­con­sider and take the spot.

Even if he does change his mind and run, Ry­an’s path wouldn’t ne­ces­sar­ily be easy. Some con­ser­vat­ives—like Reps. Thomas Massie, Steve King, Justin Amash, and Louie Gohmert—are still back­ing Rep. Daniel Web­ster for the job, al­though some of that sup­port could pos­sibly change if Ry­an really is to join the race. Rep. Jim Jordan—who leads the House Free­dom Caucus, which has en­dorsed Web­ster—said Fri­day, “We’ve en­dorsed Mr. Web­ster. Noth­ing’s changed.” Rep. Dav­id Sch­weikert said that while he thinks Paul Ry­an has the propensity to lead, “It’s not about the man; it is about the policies and pro­ced­ures.” Con­ser­vat­ives still want to see a speak­er can­did­ate who makes more prom­ises to chan­ging the way le­gis­la­tion is moved and voted on in the House of Rep­res­ent­at­ives. 

In Fri­day’s meet­ing, Mc­Carthy re­it­er­ated his an­nounce­ment from Thursday, telling the con­fer­ence he would not run for speak­er. Rep. John Flem­ing, of Louisi­ana, said Boehner spoke briefly to the group. “He just ba­sic­ally said he was go­ing to re­main speak­er un­til we get a new speak­er; he ex­pec­ted that by the end of the month,” Flem­ing said. Paul Ry­an was not even men­tioned in the meet­ing and he left early, said Re­pub­lic­an Policy Com­mit­tee Chair­man Luke Mess­er, of In­di­ana.

Lead­ers also form­ally an­nounced a task force to ex­am­ine rules and pro­ced­ur­al changes, which con­ser­vat­ives have been ask­ing for as a pre­requis­ite to vot­ing for any speak­er. 

Mess­er, who will helm the task force along with Mc­Mor­ris Rodgers and Ju­di­ciary Chair­man Bob Good­latte, said chan­ging lead­er­ship is only part of the solu­tion. He said the con­fer­ence will not be sat­is­fied un­less lead­ers make changes to the way le­gis­la­tion is passed and how fac­tions in the con­fer­ence co­ex­ist: “We’ve got to re­cog­nize as a con­fer­ence that we’re es­sen­tially a co­ali­tion gov­ern­ment made up of cent­rist swing-state Re­pub­lic­ans, a gov­ern­ing con­ser­vat­ive middle, and the tea party, Free­dom Caucus on the right. Un­less we fig­ure out a way to make those three groups op­er­ate more co­her­ently, we’re go­ing to con­tin­ue to have troubles.”

Rep. Barry Loudermilk, of Geor­gia, a Free­dom Caucus mem­ber, said the im­me­di­ate em­phas­is should be on pro­cess changes: “I want to see a change in the cul­ture of Wash­ing­ton, D.C., and I think the way you do that is not who you elect, but it’s the pro­cess, it’s the pro­ced­ures. So there is a num­ber that are say­ing, and I agree with this, [that] be­fore we move ahead with a speak­er vote, let’s ad­dress the pro­cess, let’s ad­dress the rules, let’s make sure that every mem­ber of Con­gress has a voice here.” 

Mc­Mor­ris Rodgers said Fri­day that the caucus is “com­mit­ted to an or­derly pro­cess, and I think it is worth tak­ing the time.”

Rep. John Kline, of Min­nesota, and Rep. Can­dice Miller, of Michigan, both re­tir­ing at the end of this term, have each been floated as pos­sible place­hold­er can­did­ates for the speak­er­ship to give the con­fer­ence more time to settle on a con­sensus lead­er in 2016. Rep. Cole sug­ges­ted Kline as an al­tern­at­ive to Ry­an Fri­day. Miller has already said she is not in­ter­ested.

Clare Foran contributed to this article.

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