Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Rep. Paul Ryan is discussing the possibility of pursuing the job as House Speaker, a source close to the Wisconsin Republican told ABC News Friday.
Ryan has repeatedly declined to shut down the chatter around calls for him to run for speaker, while his congressional office maintains publicly that he is “still not running.”
“Chairman Ryan appreciates the support he’s getting from his colleagues but is still not running for Speaker,” Ryan’s spokesman Brendan Buck said in a statement Friday.
If Ryan were to get into the race, it would represent a change of heart for the man who until now has repeatedly declined to seek the top job in Congress despite repeated pleas from the party’s leadership, including current Speaker of the House John Boehner, that he seek the job. But after House Republicans huddled behind closed doors Friday morning, it became clear that Ryan was also the top choice of the party’s rank-and-file.
Several Republicans who emerged from Friday morning’s conference meeting said that Ryan was their top choice to succeed Boehner and the person most capable of leading a divided party. Even Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who had previously launched a long shot bid to challenge California Rep. Kevin McCarthy in the election, said that he would drop his own name from consideration and get behind Ryan should he run.
“I would not run against Paul Ryan,” Chaffetz said when asked if he’d drop out should Ryan enter the race.
The calls for Ryan to seek the top job in Congress come a day after McCarthy pulled the plug on his own bid to replace Boehner on the same day that members were slated to vote for Boehner’s successor. McCarthy was widely expected to win the race, but he made the surprise decision to pull out after his team determined he only had 175 to 200 House Republicans whom they could count on voting for him, well short of the 218 needed.
“If Paul Ryan got into the race, of course I’d support him, he’d be the kind of person I could get excited about,” Chaffetz added. “One of the reasons I got into the race was that people like Paul Ryan weren’t stepping up to do it.”
California Rep. Darrell Issa, who had entertained the idea of entering the race himself earlier on Friday morning, said after the meeting that he did “everything except carry his gym bag this morning” in trying to convince Ryan to throw his name into the ring.
“The fact is, Paul Ryan is the right man right now, he has moderate support and he very clearly has conservative support,” Issa said. “Members of the Freedom Caucus have come to me one after the other saying, ‘Let Paul know we would be with him.’ That’s a very good sign after the strained relations that John Boehner had with that same caucus.”
The Freedom Caucus, which forced Boehner’s resignation announcement, was also a driving force behind McCarthy’s surprise to decision to pull out the race. While the majority of Republicans had backed McCarthy’s bid, roughly 40 members of the House Freedom Caucus pledged to oppose McCarthy on a House floor vote later this month, depriving him of the 218 votes needed to win Boehner’s gavel.
Those hardliners showed no indication they would let up against the California Republican in upcoming fights over raising the debt ceiling and funding the government.
In Friday morning’s conference meeting, Boehner, R-Ohio, appealed to members to stick together as they work through the process of finding and electing a new leader.
“We have not announced a new date for the Speaker election yet. I want to hear from all of you before we make any decisions,” he said, according to a source in the room. “But while we go through this process, we’ve got to continue to address the people’s priorities. This institution cannot grind to a halt.”
“Time for us to take the walls down, open up our ears and listen to each other,” Boehner added.
And despite his sudden fall from the race a day prior, New York Rep. Peter King told reporters that McCarthy joked in Friday’s meeting that he slept very well Thursday night.
Pointing to Ryan as the man best equipped to reach compromise among the divergent wings of the Republican Party, Issa expressed hope that Ryan would officially enter the race.
“I think at the end of the day, or the end of the week, Paul Ryan will be our speaker presumptive,” Issa told reporters after emerging from the Republican conference on Capitol Hill Friday morning.
Ryan said in a statement Thursday morning that he was not running for speaker, and by the end of the day, he said his statement remained unchanged.
“I just don’t have any answers for you right now,” Ryan told reporters as he left his committee office Thursday night. “My statement stands, I haven’t changed anything.”
Rep. Trey Gowdy, of South Carolina, had also been floated as a potential candidate following McCarthy’s withdrawal. Gowdy has said he has no interest in the job. But that didn’t stop his supporters from pressing them to lead the House.
“I’m going to keep asking him to run,” Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, said on Thursday of her pleas to Gowdy.
Gowdy maintained that he is still not interested in the job.
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