WASHINGTON – Every day another Republican lawmaker seems to wake up and decide that he – and in at least one case, she – might make a pretty good speaker of the House.
The profusion of potential candidates, now approaching double digits, is happening even with all attention focused on Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, the former GOP vice presidential nominee widely seen as the best person for the job.
Ryan, who has made clear he does not want to be speaker, is home in Wisconsin, thinking it over anyway under pressure from top party leaders. And with Congress out of session for a weeklong recess, Capitol Hill has fallen quiet after a series of wild days during which Speaker John Boehner shocked the House by announcing his planned resignation, and Boehner’s heir apparent, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, abruptly took himself out of the running.
The stunning developments left a leadership vacuum at the pinnacle of Congress. Now into it are stepping a growing number of Republican lawmakers from around the country, some relative newcomers, others with experience to point to, united by a chance to lunge at the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to become speaker of the U.S. House, second-in-line to the presidency.
Why any of them would want a job that defeated the current occupant and scared off his No. 2 is another question.
Nevertheless, the wannabe speakers are multiplying.
“I am humbled to have my name mentioned as a potential candidate, and I am considering the pursuit of the speakership in response to those requests,” Rep. Bill Flores, R-Texas, wrote in a letter to fellow House members Wednesday. “If we all spend enough time on our knees praying for each other, we can heal our divisions and truly work together to restore America to the ‘Shining City on a Hill’ that President Reagan challenged us to become.”
And a freshman congressman from Montana, Ryan Zinke, got into the action. “We’re looking at it. Our phones are ringing off the hook because I think America wants something different,” Zinke said. “I haven’t decided, but what I have decided is that Congress better do our duty and defend our values of this country.”
Several of the lawmakers sought to make clear that they were being urged by their fellow Republicans to run for speaker; not doing so out of their own ambitions.
And several also took pains to make clear that they would run only if Ryan does not.
Although Ryan would be the prohibitive favorite for the job if he does seek it, Mulvaney and others disputed arguments that he’s the only one who could unite the House GOP. Ryan, an expert on budgetary matters who chairs the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee chairman, is already drawing criticism from some on the right for his support for comprehensive immigration legislation and government bailouts.
“I like him and I respect him, and I think there are a number of directions he might take us that I don’t want to go, and immigration is one of those,” said Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa. “I don’t think he would be one who would transform (the House) and turn it into a membership-driven organization and I think this is our one chance to do that.”
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