House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., has announced that he will not seek re-election this year – but Ryan is reportedly facing intense pressure to give up his leadership position right now to prevent the move from dividing Republicans during a contentious midterm election year.
“Scuttlebutt is that Paul will have to step down from [the] speakership soon,” one unnamed source close to leadership told Axios’ Jonathan Swan and Mike Allen. “Members won’t allow a lame duck, he’ll have no leverage to cut deals, and the last thing they need in this environment is six months of palace intrigue and everyone stabbing everyone else in the back.”
Swan and Allen said a senior GOP House member predicted, “He will be gone by the end of July.”
One issue could be that major political donors who have contributed to Ryan will want to see him exit early for the sake of the party.
“This is not because he’ll struggle to raise money,” Axios reported. “Enough donors from the old Romney-Ryan world will write checks to Ryan to save the majority. It’s more about certainty and stability. Members need certainty, and they don’t want to operate until November in a climate where every move from every member of leadership is viewed through the prism of jostling for the speakership.”
So who should take Ryan’s position as House GOP leader?
As WND reported, the names most commonly mentioned are House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La.
McCarthy is next in line in leadership, but Scalise is likely to be a sentimental favorite after his comeback from last year’s congressional baseball shooting. Some sources claim President Trump is likely to favor McCarthy, though the president also likes Scalise.
“McCarthy feels he’s in a very good place, after a day of talking to members and the White House,” Swan and Allen wrote. “He’s ready to go if/when Ryan steps aside.”
Asked if he wants the House speaker position, Scalise told Fox News on Thursday: “First of all, I’ve got a job right now as the House majority whip, and there’s a lot more we need to do. I was meeting with President Trump last night at the White House with the rest of our leadership team and, frankly, we were talking about all the things we want to get done the rest of this year, building on the tax-cut bill that we passed that’s having a tremendous positive impact on the economy. If we’re worried about what we might want to be eight months from now… we need to focus on getting our job done and keeping the majority. If we lose focus on that, Nancy Pelosi will be speaker. And I think we know how devastating that would be for our country. We can’t let that happen.”
Asked if he would run against McCarthy for the speakership, Scalise said, “No, and I’ve said that before. I’ve never run against Kevin, and I wouldn’t run against Kevin. He and I are good friends.”
Meanwhile, as WND reported, while recent rumors on Capitol Hill suggest Ryan has been seriously considering an earlier resignation from his post, the top Democrat seeking his seat is raking in the dough.
In fact, Wisconsin Democrat challenger Randy Bryce is pulling in more cash than any challenger to Ryan in the last two decades.
Bryce’s campaign says it raised $2.1 million at the end of the last fundraising quarter. That makes $4.75 million in total donations. Bryce also has $2.3 million in cash on hand.
“Paul Ryan has never been more vulnerable,” Bryce campaign spokeswoman Lauren Hitt told Mediaite. “The speaker is facing a well-funded, well-organized opponent with broad support, locally and nationally, in an extremely anti-incumbent environment. He may just want to put those rumors to rest and bow out gracefully.”
In 2016, Ryan won Wisconsin’s 1st district with approximately 65 percent of the vote. And Donald Trump was victorious by double-digit margins.
But Bryce’s people reference last month’s special election in Pennsylvania to illustrate how an underdog Democrat can take a Republican seat even after 2016 proved so successful for the party. In that election, Democrat Conor Lamb managed a major upset in the heart of Trump country.
“Trump only won our district by 10; he won PA-18 by 19,” Hitt said.
As WND reported, rumors have been swirling about an early Ryan resignation for a while.
“The rumor mill is that Paul Ryan is getting ready to resign in the next 30 to 60 days and that Steve Scalise will be the new speaker,” Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., told Nevada Newsmakers on March 26, noting that he’s sharing the current buzz on Capitol Hill.
“Now that is interesting because nobody has talked to members (of the U.S. House) on how they are going to vote (on new leadership),” Amodei said. “Now, maybe they have talked to all of the members but me. I don’t know, so that is the rumor mill from last week.”
Just months ago, some of Ryan’s close friends told CNN he’s likely leave Congress after the midterm elections in November – or even sooner.
“Some say his departure could possibly happen even sooner,” CNN reported. “Some friends indicate that Ryan may be suffering from a bout of ‘Trump-haustion,’ but others believe there is serious contemplation of leaving Congress in 2018. … Ryan particularly dislikes the toll the job takes on his family, according to multiple sources.”
Also in December, Politico cited several unnamed sources who claimed Ryan has clearly stated that he “would like to serve through Election Day 2018 and retire ahead of the next Congress.”
“Despite several landmark legislative wins this year, and a better-than-expected relationship with President Donald Trump, Ryan has made it known to some of his closest confidants that this will be his final term as speaker,” Politico reported. “He consults a small crew of family, friends and staff for career advice, and is always cautious not to telegraph his political maneuvers. But the expectation of his impending departure has escaped the hushed confines of Ryan’s inner circle and permeated the upper-most echelons of the GOP. In recent interviews with three dozen people who know the speaker – fellow lawmakers, congressional and administration aides, conservative intellectuals and Republican lobbyists – not a single person believed Ryan will stay in Congress past 2018.”
Rep. Amodei said, according to rumors, Ryan “wants to play on the national stage in some capacity or another.”
But the congressman said it’s unlikely that he’d serve in Trump’s Cabinet or at the White House.
“I’m speculating from at least as far away as you are, and my speculation is this: The White House and Paul Ryan would probably not be a great fit,” Amodei said, later adding, “I would be very surprised if there were open arms at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue for ‘come on into the administration, Mr. Cheese Guy.'”
As WND reported in March 2017, the House speaker has been under fire since long before Trump was inaugurated, particularly due to his failure to get Obamacare repealed. The Hill reported days before the 2016 election, “Chatter is growing louder on Capitol Hill that Paul Ryan’s days as speaker are numbered.”