WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — The pressure is mounting for Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., to run for speaker of the House.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy dropped a bombshell announcement Thursday when he revealed he was dropping out of the speaker’s race.
“I’ve talked with Paul Ryan. He’s talking to people. I think he’d make a great speaker,” McCarthy said Friday morning as he entered a closed-door Republican meeting. “It’s a big decision. He’s got to talk to his wife and everybody else, and it’s got to be his decision.”
Ryan has insisted that he’s not interested in the post, preferring to focus on his chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee. In addition, any presidential aspirations the 45-year-old Wisconsin lawmaker might have could be undercut by holding the chamber’s top job and managing its unruly caucus.
“If he wants to be president, there is no road to the presidency through the House speakership because it’s such a tough job as we’re seeing,” CBS News political director and “Face the Nation” host John Dickerson said on “CBS This Morning.”
Republican strategist and CBS News contributor Frank Luntz told “CBS This Morning” that the best candidate for the job is Ryan.
“You don’t want a new face. You want someone who knows the rules. You want someone who knows the procedure. You want someone who knows what regular order actually is. And you want someone you can listen – not just to a narrow group of people – but to the entire Congress,” Luntz told “CBS This Morning.” “I know that they are talking to him. I know that there’s a considerable amount of pressure on him, but if Paul Ryan says no, God help us if we put someone in there who has been in office for two or four years and doesn’t even know the process to run the House of Representatives.”
With Republicans acting more like feuding relatives than a unified party, departing House Speaker John Boehner and McCarthy were pressing Ryan to seek the job. Boehner also told the conference that he is intent on holding elections for speaker at the end of the month.
Ryan said he is uninterested but did not reject the idea outright when he entered Friday’s conference. “I have nothing new to say,” Ryan said.
Luntz called it “pathetic” of the inability of House Republicans to unite.
“Those people listening today should understand when members come out and say, ‘Well, we weren’t respected, we weren’t appreciated,’ House Republicans are not functioning this morning and they haven’t functioned for some time because there’s a segment there that simply believes that it’s better to blow up the process than it is to fix it. It is better to pull people apart than it is to find some way to collaborate and to cooperate and to work together.”
The Freedom Caucus – a group of 40 hardline conservatives – helped to force McCarthy’s hand to drop out.
“The problem is there’s nobody who can get the 218 votes which is the number of Republicans that you need to be elected speaker. And before McCarthy made this bombshell announcement, I talked to a member who was trying to count votes for him, and he said he can win in the conference, the vote that was supposed to be happening yesterday. They didn’t think they could win 218 on the House floor which would be a public embarrassment for him,” Dickerson explained.
The “Face the Nation” host doesn’t expect the caucus to back down either despite the party being in disarray currently.
“Their argument in the Freedom Caucus is we were given the majority and we have buckled and we have not stood firm. So now that they have gotten John Boehner out, they’ve gotten Kevin McCarthy out, that group is feeling good and why would they want to buckle. Their job is to stand firm,” Dickerson said on “CBS This Morning.”
The tumult was escalating as the GOP-run Congress hurtled toward showdowns with President Barack Obama over spending and borrowing. If not resolved, those faceoffs could result in a partial government shutdown or an unprecedented federal default.
Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., believe either scenario would severely wound GOP prospects in next year’s presidential and congressional elections. Some conservatives seem eager to use the confrontations to dare Obama to veto GOP priorities like cutting government spending and halting federal payments to Planned Parenthood.
On Thursday, Republicans munching barbecue at a closed-door meeting, seemingly ready to coronate McCarthy as their candidate for speaker, were aghast when the Californian rose and told them he wouldn’t seek the job.
“It was only going to get worse,” McCarthy said in an interview published Thursday night by The Wall Street Journal. He added, “This was for the good of the team.”
McCarthy’s announcement leaves the race to succeed Boehner wide open. Boehner, an Ohio Republican, delivered his own shocker on Sept. 25 when he said he would retire from Congress Oct. 30.
“Two people now have taken themselves out of the running,” said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla. “And I hope we will have candidate who can lift up our party.”
Boehner said he would remain in his job until a new speaker was installed, an ironic consequence considering conservatives’ desire to shove him out the door. That election was set for Oct. 29, but its date is now uncertain.
Attempting to calm the waters, 19 Republicans including several committee chairs wrote GOP lawmakers that they shouldn’t pick a speaker until agreeing on “a shared set of goals and governing vision that benefits the nation and our constituents.”
McCarthy had two rivals for the post, Reps. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Daniel Webster, R-Fla. Neither had broad backing among the House’s 247 Republicans.
After McCarthy revealed his decision to his colleagues — lawmakers said he did so standing beside his wife, Judy — the five-term lawmaker told reporters, “If we are going to be strong, we’ve got to be 100 percent united.”
McCarthy had been strongly opposed by a band of 30 to 40 conservatives called the House Freedom Caucus. They consider him too close to Boehner, whose leadership team had punished some conservatives by removing them from committees.
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