House Republicans Leave Washington With No Answers

Some mem­bers are not abandon­ing hope that Rep. Paul Ry­an, who many call the closest thing that frac­tious Re­pub­lic­ans have to a con­sensus pick for speak­er, may re­verse his de­cision to avoid the con­test. Some mem­bers are not abandon­ing hope that Rep. Paul Ry­an, who many call the closest thing that frac­tious Re­pub­lic­ans have to a con­sensus pick for speak­er, may re­verse his de­cision to avoid the con­test. Evan Vucci/AP file photo

House Re­pub­lic­ans left Wash­ing­ton for the weeklong Colum­bus Day re­cess Fri­day with no path­way for end­ing the polit­ic­al tu­mult and un­cer­tainty in their lead­er­ship ranks.

But mem­bers are not abandon­ing hope that Rep. Paul Ry­an, who many call the closest thing that frac­tious Re­pub­lic­ans have to a con­sensus pick for speak­er, may re­verse his de­cision to avoid the con­test to re­place out­go­ing Speak­er John Boehner.

“He’s not say­ing no any­more,” Rep. Lynn West­mo­re­land, who is weigh­ing his own run but says he’d sup­port Ry­an if he gets in, told Na­tion­al Journ­al.

Still, a spokes­man for Ry­an, the in­flu­en­tial Ways and Means Com­mit­tee chair­man, said Fri­day af­ter­noon he re­mains on the side­lines des­pite the in­tense ef­forts to draft him. “Chair­man Ry­an ap­pre­ci­ates the sup­port he’s get­ting from his col­leagues but is still not run­ning for speak­er,” spokes­man Brendan Buck said.

Ry­an him­self said little pub­licly as he headed home to Wis­con­sin Fri­day af­ter­noon. “Really I don’t have any­thing more to add or say. Noth­ing has changed. Right now I am just go­ing to catch my flight,” he told re­port­ers as he left the Cap­it­ol.

The in­trigue around Ry­an comes a day after House Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Kev­in Mc­Carthy sud­denly dropped his bid to suc­ceed Boehner, who had planned to leave Con­gress the end of the month, but says he’ll stay on un­til a suc­cessor is in place.

The draft-Ry­an move­ment re­mains in­tense even as rest­ive House Re­pub­lic­ans, led by many of the pan­el’s most con­ser­vat­ive mem­bers, are push­ing for pro­ced­ur­al changes that would give rank-and-file mem­bers more power. The House GOP con­fer­ence met Fri­day morn­ing for their latest soul-search­ing dis­cus­sion.

“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,” said Barry Loudermilk, a mem­ber of the House Free­dom Caucus, a group of GOP hard­liners who made clear they would not have backed Mc­Carthy.

House Re­pub­lic­an lead­ers form­ally an­nounced a task force on Fri­day to ex­am­ine rules and pro­ced­ur­al changes, which con­ser­vat­ives have been ask­ing for as a pre­requis­ite to vot­ing for any speak­er.

Re­pub­lic­an Policy Com­mit­tee Chair­man Luke Mess­er, who will helm the task force along with House Re­pub­lic­an Con­fer­ence Chair Cathy 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,” he said.

While Ry­an has re­buffed calls to enter the race thus far, a num­ber of oth­er names have emerged as po­ten­tial can­did­ates, in­clud­ing GOP Reps. Mike Con­away, Mar­sha Black­burn and Jeff Miller.

But the biggest ques­tion loom­ing over the GOP Fri­day was wheth­er Ry­an will suc­cumb to grow­ing calls from law­makers who seem him as the mem­ber most likely to win the 218 votes needed to take the speak­er’s gavel from the de­part­ing Boehner.

The pres­sure is in­tense. En­ergy and Com­merce Com­mit­tee Chair­man Fred Up­ton said al­though it is not an or­ches­trated ef­fort, mem­bers have been call­ing on Ry­an to run to the point where he has had to re­sort to drastic meas­ures to avoid them: Sit­ting next to fam­ously ill-tempered Rep. Jim Sensen­bren­ner of Wis­con­sin. 

“I talked to him on the floor as well yes­ter­day. I said, ‘Paul you’ve got to run.’ He said, ‘Well I’ve got to go sit next to Sensen­bren­ner.’ And part of that is Sensen­bren­ner is known to be such a grouch that he figured if he sat next to him no one would con­front him on the floor,” Up­ton said Fri­day af­ter­noon.

Rep. Jason Chaf­fetz, who has already got­ten in­to the Speak­er’s race, said he would yield to Ry­an if he changed his mind. “If Paul Ry­an got in­to the race, of course I would sup­port him,” he said Fri­day. “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.

“I be­lieve Paul Ry­an is go­ing to go home, meet with his fam­ily over the week­end, be­cause people con­tin­ue to urge him, beg him, ca­jole him be­cause he is the con­sensus can­did­ate at this point,” said Rep. Dar­rell Issa after the House GOP meet­ing. Issa is also weigh­ing a run if the ef­fort to draft Ry­an fails.

But 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.

The GOP con­fer­ence is in tu­mult just three weeks be­fore Boehner is slated to go. Rep. John Flem­ing, of Louisi­ana, said Boehner spoke briefly to the group at the meet­ing Fri­day morn­ing. “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.

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. Tom Cole sug­ges­ted Kline as an al­tern­at­ive to Ry­an Fri­day. Miller has already said she is not in­ter­ested.

As for Ry­an, he had more to say to re­port­ers about foot­ball than his polit­ic­al fu­ture in the House on Fri­day. “The Pack­ers are home and they are go­ing to beat the Rams,” Ry­an said. “And they are go­ing to cov­er the spread.”

Clare Foran contributed to this article.

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