House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) are vying to replace Speaker Paul Ryan, according to a report from Politico.
Politico suggested in their report that Scalise and McCarthy have courted fellow Republican lawmakers for support to become the next Speaker. Rumors have suggested for months that Paul Ryan might retire after or before the 2018 midterm elections.
The two members of Republican leadership downplayed Politico’s report. Scalise argued that he would not challenge McCarthy for Speaker.
President Donald Trump is reportedly fond of McCarthy; the two met for dinner last week.
One lawmaker close to McCarthy suggested that his relationship with Trump would give him the speakership, unlike his unsuccessful bid in 2015.
The representative told Politico, “It’s McCarthy’s to lose. I think he’s in a lot stronger place than last time because he’s got a close relationship with Trump.”
Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), a member of the House Freedom Caucus, suggested that McCarthy might face opposition from conservatives because of his liberal policies.
“He’s not Speaker now because he’s got a fairly liberal Republican track record,” Brooks told a local radio station in March.
The Alabama conservative argues that Scalise would be a better fit for the speakership. Brooks also contended that he is a “heroic figure” after he was shot last summer.
Speaker Ryan’s team denied that he is resigning in the near future. McCarthy said in a statement, “Paul Ryan is our Speaker and I hope he is our speaker for a very long time.”
Scalise admitted in an interview in March that he would one day like to serve as Speaker of the House.
I wouldn’t rule it out. Obviously, I’ve shown interest in the past at moving up. I’ve enjoyed being in leadership. I feel like I’ve had a strong influence on some of the things that we’ve done, and I’ve helped put together coalitions to pass a full repeal of Obamacare.
The Louisiana Republican continued, arguing that much of the speculation amounts to palace intrigue:
It’s easy to get drawn into the palace intrigue and speculation. But if you do that, you truly will lose focus on what your mission is, and that is working with President Trump to advance a conservative agenda. The stakes are way too high for us to lose sight of what we need to do right now.
In February, Rep. Roger Williams (R-TX) introduced Scalise to his donors as the “next speaker.”
Colby Hale, Williams’s chief of staff, added that the comment was “lighthearted,” but then added that “If and when Speaker Ryan decides it’s time to no longer be speaker, Congressman Williams thinks Whip Scalise would be a natural leader to step up.”
Speaker Ryan has denied rumors for months that he might retire at the end of his congressional term in 2018. In December, Paul Ryan, a Never Trump Republican, denied that he would retire, simply stating, “I’m not, no.”