Speaker Paul Ryan caused quite a stir when he announced his decision not to run for re-election and become a more active participant in the life of his family. Immediately the speculation began as to who would replace him. The obvious two frontrunners are Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA). Thursday Scalise said he would not run against McCarthy but clearly, Scalise is ready and waiting in the wings, just in case McCarthy fails in his bid. And, oh yeah, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) may jump in to mix it up a bit.
Friday, Ryan endorsed McCarthy when he said, “I think we all believe that Kevin is the right person, I think Kevin’s the right guy to step up.” Then, after Jordan was spotted coming out of Ryan’s office, he indicated he’d be thinking about the job, too.
Jim Jordan, a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus, spoke Friday about a possible challenge to McCarthy. He knows he has zero chance of rising to the top of the leadership chain but at this point, he claims that others are encouraging him to run. He rightly, though, points to the importance of keeping the majority in November lest this whole conversation is moot.
“There is no speaker’s race right now,” Jordan told reporters. “Paul Ryan is the speaker. If and when there is, I’ve been urged by colleagues to consider that and I am definitely open to that. Right now though the focus has got to be on the next six months, us keeping the majority.”
Jordan is a tactical politician. His move is not about actually believing he could win a speaker’s race.
You may remember that Jordan, as part of the House Freedom Caucus, opposed McCarthy when he was in the running for Speaker when John Boehner was ousted from the position. Whomever successfully rises as the next Speaker will have to have the blessing, or at least the votes, of the caucus.
But, back to Scalise. The Louisiana Republican who faced death when he was gunned down on a baseball field in 2017, is well-respected and certainly has proven his dedication and fortitude as he returned to his position when that was in doubt while he recovered. Scalise mentions his personal friendship with McCarthy when he says he’ll not challenge him for the job but doesn’t really come out and say he’s not interested in the gig.
“What I told Paul is what I’ve been saying, [which] is look, first of all I’m not running against Kevin, but none of us should be worried about running for anything because we’ve got to be focused on our agenda and keeping the majority,” the Louisiana Republican said Friday. “Because if we don’t keep the majority all this other talk of titles is irrelevant.”
Asked if that means he supports McCarthy, Scalise still hedged, “I know people want to nuance everything. What I’ve said is I’m not running against him. But there’s no race. We are not running for offices right now. We’re focused on our agenda.”
So, I read that as Scalise focusing on doing his part to help keep the Republican majority in the House with a potential blue wave election hovering over them but he’ll be ready to jump in if McCarthy can’t get those like the Freedom Caucus onboard. Jordan wants to enter the fray to ensure that the concerns of his group are heard. It’s just a tactical move.
It was quite a food fight in 2015 but Ryan thinks the transition to new leadership will be easier this time around. He cites the “gelling” of the team now in place.
“This leadership team has come together and gelled, this conference has been unified, and we’ve actually moved the ball and gotten things done,” he said. “I really do envision a more seamless transition, versus say the time when I came in.”
Let the games begin.