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In Speaker Possibilities, a Lack of Women

McMorris Rodgers chairs the GOP Conference. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Look at the list of potential Republican candidates to be the next speaker of the House and one thing becomes clear: It's male-dominated.  

The highest ranking Republican woman, Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., is on the list, but not many members will cite her among potential candidates, noting they believe she will not run for the top spot.

(CQ Roll Call Graphic)

(CQ Roll Call Graphic)

Asked about the lack of women on the list of speaker candidates, Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., said he had heard some members were discussing a potential bid by House Administration Chairwoman Candice S. Miller, R-Mich. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., also floated Miller's name as a potential interim speaker.  

Miller is currently the only Republican woman who chairs a full committee, and she is set to retire at the end of this Congress. As the head of House Administration, she helped shape outgoing Speaker John A. Boehner's legacy in the House , cutting congressional committee spending. But even if Miller is a potential candidate, there would still be a lack of female Republicans for the speaker position.  

"Part of the difficulty on the Republican side of the aisle: We only have 22 women out of 247," Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Mo., said Thursday afternoon. In other words, there is a much smaller pool of GOP women to become speaker candidates.  

"Across the board I want more women involved," Wagner said. "We make up 53 percent of the electorate. We are not a coalition. We are the majority. So we need to have more women engaged and involved.”  

So what keeps women from being engaged? Wagner said recruits often have questions about travel time, family concerns and "putting themselves and their families in this big glass bubble that we’re all in."  

Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va., said she has heard similar concerns from potential female candidates, and said she herself waited to run for office until she was an "empty nester."  

“In our conference, I do think we need to have more women so all of us have worked to get more women elected," Comstock said. "We just have to get more numbers. The Democrats have more than we do. And we’re trying to get more.”  

Comstock said helping elect more GOP women will take efforts by sitting members supporting female candidates. She pointed to Cole as an example of someone who supported her congressional campaign in 2014.  

Cole told reporters Thursday afternoon that he believed Rep. Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., would be the best candidate for speaker. He said he heard McMorris Rodgers would not run for the post, but said she would be a successful speaker.  

"The real issue here is, will the same people that wouldn’t support Kevin McCarthy be willing to support her, because we still have a 218 problem," Cole said. "And if they are, she would be wonderful."  

Melanie Zanona contributed to this report. Related:

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