Updated 1:13 p.m. | One day after Kevin McCarthy shocked his conference by announcing he would not seek the speakership, the list of possible candidates continues to grow. The two declared candidates are Jason Chaffetz of Utah and Daniel Webster of Florida, but a whole host of names has been floated by lawmakers.
On Friday morning, Rep. Darrell Issa of California, Chaffetz's predecessor as chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, dissed his successor's chances in an appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" and said he might become a candidate himself. Issa built his reputation in part with his many fights with President Barack Obama's administration and numerous media appearances.
But after a 9 a.m. Republican conference meeting, Issa told reporters Ways and Means Chairman Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin is the right man for the job. He predicted Ryan “will be our speaker presumptive” when everything shakes out with the House GOP.
"Paul Ryan is the right man, right now," said Issa, who was the richest member of Congress in 2014. “I believe he’s going home this weekend to soul search with his family about whether or not he can in fact accept this job — a job he doesn’t want, [a job] he isn’t seeking, but is seeking him."
Issa continued: "I did everything except carry his gym bag this morning trying to get him to do it. The fact is, Paul Ryan is the right man right now. He has moderate support and he very clearly has conservative support. Members of the Freedom Caucus have come to me, one after another, saying, ‘Let Paul know we would be with him.’"
Chaffetz Still Running for Speaker After McCarthy Announcement
Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan said Friday afternoon he talked to Ryan and said the Wisconsin Republican is giving the speakership a second thought. Upton said his understanding is that former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who chose Ryan as his running mate in 2008, called him Thursday to urge him to run.
House Freedom Caucus member Dave Brat, the Virginia Republican who defeated then-Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a primary last summer, said the conservative group could support Ryan if he signs a pledge to run the chamber in accordance with the group's five core principles.
Brat and HFC member Rául R. Labrador cryptically said they believe a "consensus candidate" for speaker exists inside the conference should Ryan not seek the gavel — but neither would identify just who that might be.
Chaffetz said Ryan is "the most qualified person to do it," and said he would not challenge him if he decides to run — though he noted the Wisconsin Republican has so far refused.
"If Paul Ryan gets in the race, of course I would support him," Chaffetz said.
Asked if she would like to see Ryan seek the speaker's gavel, GOP Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers replied, "Yes, I would."
On Friday afternoon, Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn's name cropped up. "Marsha has heard from a lot of people who are encouraging her to run," spokesman Mike Reynard said. "Right now, she is listening and having conversations with her colleagues about what is the best way to unite our conference moving forward."
House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions told reporters that upon returning from recess he planned to hold an "organizational meeting" with McMorris Rodgers and Rep. Luke Messer of Indiana to help smooth over internecine concerns.
Rep. Lynn Westmoreland also floated himself as a possible speaker Thursday night — a bid the Georgia Republican seemed to acknowledge was a long shot. “We’re thinking about it — me and about 20 other people,” he said in a hallway interview.
Speaker John A. Boehner, meanwhile, reiterated to members at the conference meeting Friday morning that he would stay for as long as it takes to find a new speaker, but said he hoped to still leave at the end of the month, according to members leaving the closed-door huddle.
Florida Rep. John L. Mica said reluctant front-runner Ryan did not address the conference, though Boehner offered some thoughts. "The speaker felt that ... [we should] open the process up and see what happens," Mica told reporters. He also reiterated his belief that McCarthy would have triumphed had he chosen to persevere.
"Everyone knows Kevin had more than 200 votes," Mica said.
McCarthy himself said Ryan remained the prime candidate. "Paul is thinking about it. ... It's his decision," he said.
CQ Roll Call staff contributed to this report.
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