What Conservative Lawmakers Think About Paul Ryan Running For Speaker

Alex Pappas | Political Reporter

WASHINGTON — Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan is being pressed by Republicans to run for speaker of the House. But what do the conservatives who helped push majority leader Kevin McCarthy out of the race think about a Ryan speakership?

“I think that Paul Ryan would be a more acceptable candidate than the current leadership team — primarily because he’s not in the current leadership team,” acknowledged Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, a member of the House Freedom Caucus. “I believe he’d provide a different approach. But we don’t have him as a candidate right now and we’ve endorsed Daniel Webster.”

Asked Friday morning as he entered a meeting of the Republican members of the House if he’s thinking about running for speaker, Ryan replied: “I’ve got nothing new to say.”

Ryan, the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee, has repeatedly declined to run for leadership. But Ryan has been asked by a number of Republicans, including outgoing speaker John Boehner, to reconsider his decision in the wake of McCarthy withdrawing from the race.

On Friday, Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz told reporters he would drop out of the speaker’s race if Ryan decided to run. South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy, the chairman of the House Benghazi committee who has also declined to run, said he would back Ryan “100 percent” if he ran.

Gowdy, who is not a member of the Freedom Caucus, said he thought Ryan could win the support of the most conservative lawmakers if he decided to mount a campaign. “Yeah, I think Paul can get everybody,” he said.

McCarthy, the current majority leader, had been believed to likely win the party’s nomination in Thursday’s closed-door vote, but his fate was less certain heading into the Oct. 29 speaker election of the full House of Representatives as the GOP conference’s nominee. The House Freedom Caucus had signaled they might vote for someone other than McCarthy in order to prevent him from winning the necessary 218 votes to actually become speaker.

McCarthy entered the Thursday meeting and shocked Republicans by saying he had decided to drop out of the race. Boehner announced that the vote would be postponed.

Like Amash, other members of the Freedom Caucus reiterated their support for Florida Rep. Daniel Webster for speaker when questioned about whether they would be open to Ryan.

Asked whether the group could support Ryan on the floor, Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, the chairman of the caucus, referred to Webster and said: “Nothing’s changed.”

“He will put this conference back on its feet,” Iowa Rep. Steve King said of Webster.

Virginia Rep. Dave Brat, who defeated former House majority leader Eric Cantor in the 2014 primary, seemed open to the idea that Ryan could unify the party as speaker. “Sure, a lot of people could bridge the gap,” he said.

One conservative, Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie, who also supports Webster, expressed his dismay at how the speaker’s election was postponed after McCarthy dropped out, even though Webster and Chaffetz were still running.

“We had two candidates yesterday and they called off the election because they didn’t like the result,” Massie of the House GOP leadership. “What’s this tell the American people? It looks like a banana republic here.”

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