Will Ryan Be Forced Out Of The Speakership Before The Election?

Some Republicans are suggesting that Paul Ryan should be pushed out as Speaker before the November elections.

When Paul Ryan announced yesterday that he was not seeking re-election to the House seat he’s held since first being elected in 1998, he made it clear that he intended to stay on board as Speaker of the House through the end of the current term of Congress. Less than a day after his announcement, though, there are already reports that some segments of the Republican Party are calling on him to step aside sooner so that Republicans can pick new leadership heading into the 2018 midterms:

House Speaker Paul Ryan’s retirement announcement Wednesday morning set off a round of heartburn within the White House and among its allies over the damage that may be done in what’s left of his term.

And while publicly no lawmaker is yet discussing a push to get the speaker to leave early, certain quarters of the Republican Party and Capitol Hill want him out of Congress right away rather than in early 2019.

(…)

Sources inside the Trump White House tell The Daily Beast that their primary concern following Ryan’s announcement was that more fellow House Republicans would follow him to the exits, enhancing the likelihood that Democrats gain control of the chamber. That fear seemed at least partially realized when Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL) said that he too would be retiring from Congress minutes after the Ryan news broke.

But the concerns extend beyond 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and aren’t just about the possibility of GOP lawmaker exodus that may soon transpire. On the Hill, there is fear that a lame-duck speaker all but guarantees a legislative logjam, as no lawmaker will now feel compelled to take a tough vote at Ryan’s insistence. There is also an appetite within the Republican caucus to get new leadership in right away, with the front runners being Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA).

Axios, which first reported the news of Ryan’s departure yesterday morning, is reporting similar scuttlebutt on Capitol Hill:

What we’re hearing: One source close to leadership told us: “Scuttlebutt is that Paul will have to step down from speakership soon. Members won’t follow a lame duck, he’ll have no leverage to cut deals, and the last thing they need in this environment is 6 months of palace intrigue and everyone stabbing everyone else in the back.”

  • A senior GOP House member predicted this about Ryan’s future: “He will be gone by the end of July.”
  • Some big donors, who have given millions to Ryan this cycle, may not want him to stay on as speaker if the entire party is taking on water.
  • This isnot because he’ll struggle to raise money. Enough donors from the old Romney-Ryan world will write checks to Ryan to try 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.
  • Our sources say that could pull an already divided conference even further apart.

So we wouldn’t be surprised if Ryan reverses himself before August, setting an early election for the next speaker

As things stand, the battle for the Speakership, if there is one, would be between House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Majority Whip Steve Scalise, what’s unclear is whether Scalise or anyone else would seek to mount a challenge to McCarthy if he chooses to throw his hat in the ring to replace Ryan. As things stand, McCarthy appears to be the favorite not only among the membership but also in the mind of perhaps the most important voice in the Republican Party, President Trump. As several people have noted over the past day, it seems likely that Trump would back McCarthy over Scalise and might even act to discourage Scalise from challenging the California Congressman if he wants the job. Part of this is due to the fact that Trump has developed a close relationship with McCarthy and has frequently turned to him for advice over the course of the past year. At the same time, though, the President also appears to have a good relationship with Scalise and all indications are that he’d likely be just as happy to see the Lousiana Congressman rise to the Speakership if that’s how things end up working out.

More than the President, though, the path to the Speakership for McCarthy, Scalise, or anyone else is going to have to run through the House Freedom Caucus. While this segment of the House Republican Caucus remains a minority within the total group, they still represent a strong enough contingent that their support would be absolutely essential for any candidate to secure the support of if they are going to get the majority vote they need to be elected Speaker of the House. No doubt, the Caucus will seek to use this fact as a means of gaining leverage and power within the Caucus and the price that they are likely to ask would likely include chairmanships (or Ranking Member if the GOP ends up the minority) of key House committees as well as leadership slots for some of the top members of the Freedom Caucus itself. Some kind of understanding in this regard will have to be cut with the Freedom Caucus regardless of whether or not there is a real battle for the Speakership or not.

On some level, I suppose it makes sense that Republicans would want to head into the elections in November with the question of who their next leader will be in the wake of Ryan. Additionally, it’s unclear how effective a leader Ryan can be over the next seven months given the fact that everyone knows he isn’t going to be Speaker next year. For those reasons, resolving the leadership question before the elections would make a certain amount of sense. At the same time, though, the outcome of a leadership race in the summer isn’t going to mean very much since there will have to be another such race in November after the election when it’s clear who will actually be in the House of Representatives in the term that begins in January 2019. Because of that, Republicans may be best advised to keep this fight on the back burner until after the election rather than engaging in a potentially divisive battle on the eve of primaries and the General Election. 1

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2018, Congress, US Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Kathy says:

    Can’t they just visit a feline ranch and get a cat wrangler?




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  2. Mark Ivey says:

    Let the GOP political butchery begin..




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  3. Tony W says:

    Here’s my bold prediction: Ryan, having conceded his seat and leadership position, is now freed up to allow a vote on articles of impeachment if that becomes necessary based on Mueller’s findings. This is how Ryan will redeem and position himself for the presidency in 2024.

    I can’t think of a single, plausible, alternative explanation for Ryan’s announcement so early in the election cycle.

    Trump and the Republicans realize Ryan has nothing to lose so they fear him retaining his speakership during this lame-duck period.




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  4. al-Ameda says:

    What’s the over/under on Kevin McCarthy or Mark Meadows?




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  5. rachel says:

    @Tony W:

    I can’t think of a single, plausible, alternative explanation for Ryan’s announcement so early in the election cycle.

    I can: he realized he’d hit the point of diminishing returns. He’d gotten his precious tax grab; everything Congress does for the rest to the year is going to be a thankless slog with no more prizes in it for him.




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  6. MBunge says:

    @Tony W: This is how Ryan will redeem and position himself for the presidency in 2024.

    I’ve written plenty of dumb things in my life but that may be the dumbest thing ever written in human history. If anything, it would be just the opposite and Ryan is getting out of Dodge before he has to vote on any impeachment.

    Unless you think Ryan is going to run as a Democrat in 2024?

    Mike




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  7. Stormy Dragon says:

    Is Kevin McCarthy’s seat safe? It would be hilarious if they force Ryan out, go through a painful fight only to have to go through it again when the new speaker fails to get reelected.




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  8. Kathy says:

    @Tony W:

    Here’s my bold prediction: Ryan, having conceded his seat and leadership position, is now freed up to allow a vote on articles of impeachment if that becomes necessary based on Mueller’s findings. This is how Ryan will redeem and position himself for the presidency in 2024.

    I’d love to believe that.

    But the timing doesn’t work at all.

    To begin with, no impeachment-related items can be discussed before November. If the GOP holds on to the House, there’s no need, or opportunity, to turn on Trump the Moron. Second, Mueller’s findings probably won’t be in before next year, assuming Trump the Coward doesn’t fire Mueller and others or otherwise quashes the investigation.

    But it’s always possible Trump the Idiot could do something between now and January 2019 that would be worthy of impeachment.




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  9. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @Kathy:

    Mueller’s findings probably won’t be in before next year

    I don’t know…the Manafort trial starts in July…it seems like he needs to be wrapped up before then so nothing comes out in court that he doesn’t want to.
    I am not a lawyer, though.




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  10. @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    The charges against Manafort aren’t directly related to the Russia investigation so I don’t think that Mueller would need to delve into anything he’s found in that investigation as part of the trial against Manafort.




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  11. @Stormy Dragon:

    Yes McCarthy’s seat is safe, as is Scalise’s.




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  12. MarkedMan says:

    There are reports that Ryan wants to “guide” the selection process for his replacement. Like King Lear, I think he will find that ceding power before you are gone is a chumps game and he will be ignored and humiliated in the coming weeks. Once this sinks in, he’ll head out the door.

    And no, he won’t suddenly find his principles and stand up to Trump and fire Nunes or what have you. He’s a frickin’ Ayn Rand libertarian – he is not going to suddenly develop a sense of morality.




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  13. James Pearce says:

    @Tony W:

    Ryan, having conceded his seat and leadership position, is now freed up to allow a vote on articles of impeachment if that becomes necessary based on Mueller’s findings.

    There won’t be any impeachment.

    This is clearing the decks for more and better Trumpism. Act accordingly.




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  14. Tony W says:

    @MBunge:

    I’ve written plenty of dumb things in my life but that may be the dumbest thing ever written in human history.

    I’ll defer to the expert.

    2024 will be the end of the Ford Pence Administration, and Pence will be so damaged by his association with Trump (and the inevitable pardons) that Ryan will run as the anti-Trump.




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  15. Kylopod says:

    @Tony W:

    2024 will be the end of the Ford Pence Administration, and Pence will be so damaged by his association with Trump (and the inevitable pardons) that Ryan will run as the anti-Trump.

    How will that work? Your scenario seems to imply Pence wins reelection in 2020. If he’s not damaged enough by Trump to lose then, why would he be damaged by Trump four years later? What, do the Dems nominate Carrot Top in 2020 or something?




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  16. Tony W says:

    @Kylopod: You’re right – my timing was off.

    My thinking however is that incumbents are very hard to beat, and Pence will have the full grievance-laden energy of the political right behind him after the RINOs impeach their Emperor-God in 2018.

    Democrats will nominate a geezer like Biden or Sanders or Warren, who will appear elitist and out of touch. Pence has the Trump schtick down, and the evangelicals love him.

    Look, I don’t want any of this to be true – but I fear we are that stupid.




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  17. al-Ameda says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Yes McCarthy’s seat is safe, as is Scalise’s.

    I happen to think Scalise will be the one




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  18. Tony W says:

    @Kathy:

    To begin with, no impeachment-related items can be discussed before November.

    I think the window begins after the Republican primaries.




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  19. Tony W says:

    @rachel:

    He’d gotten his precious tax grab; everything Congress does for the rest to the year is going to be a thankless slog with no more prizes in it for him.

    Interesting prize for a strong budget hawk like Ryan. Wait, that was during the Obama administration.

    I think Ryan is totally beaten down by the need to support Trump’s stupid tax-cuts. Ryan’s agenda was always to make government tiny (and therefore inexpensive). He knows the GOP tax cuts are a scam, and he had to sell himself down the river to pass them.

    He lost the VP election. He is likely the worst House Speaker in modern times. This is Ryan’s chance to finally accomplish something after 20 years on the public dole.




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  20. Kylopod says:

    @Tony W: Of course a President Pence might win in 2020. Ford very nearly won in ’76. But why would he be more damaged by Trump four years later? I suppose there could turn out to have been some shenanigans that don’t come out until after the election, but you’re making an awful lot of assumptions here. Maybe the Dems will nominate a geezer, or maybe they won’t. Or maybe the geezer will win, or maybe a younger Dem will lose. There are so many variables here it seems like a pretty perilous route on which to place a long-term strategy on Ryan’s part. It’s not so much 8-dimensional chess as 8-dimensional Twister.




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  21. Kathy says:

    @Tony W:

    It might be the primaries for some, but many might get depressed turnout and/or Democratic over performance when they engage in blasphemy (ie opposing Trump), so they may lose their seats even if they beat the primary challengers.

    So I’d wait until November.




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  22. wr says:

    @Stormy Dragon: “Is Kevin McCarthy’s seat safe?”

    If Bakersfied goes blue, there won’t be a congressional Republican outside of Mississippi…




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  23. Barry says:

    @Tony W: “I can’t think of a single, plausible, alternative explanation for Ryan’s announcement so early in the election cycle.”

    He got a massive tax cut for the rich passed, will get paid handsomely for it, and has a Randroid’s loyalty to everybody else.




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  24. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Mark Ivey: Exactly!

    the last thing they need in this environment is 6 months of palace intrigue and everyone stabbing everyone else in the back

    And stabbing Ryan in the back will mitigate the undesirable situation by…?

    For some reason, the adage “you lies down wit’ dogs, you gets up wit’ fleas” seems appropriate here.




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  25. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @rachel: Boom!




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  26. teve tory says:

    @Tony W:

    Democrats will nominate a geezer like Biden or Sanders or Warren,

    There are numerous younger people working on the nomination. Booker, Gillibrand, Harris, maybe Mitch Landrieu, for instance. If Parkland etc is actually going to change the voting demographics going forward, it might change things.




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  27. teve tory says:

    Now for some reason there’s a circle that says OTB that hangs persistently over the comments. More new crap. Thank god I can erase it with Stylebot. That was annoying.




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