If Ways and Means Chairman Paul D. Ryan decides against a run for speaker, the race to lead the House could turn into a free-for-all: A half-dozen Republicans are quietly testing the water for runs of their own, including a slew of Texans, a couple of the wealthiest men in Congress and at least one woman.
Two Texas Republicans have confirmed they're getting into the game: Reps. Bill Flores and Michael McCaul, who is No. 2 on Roll Call's 2014 list of the wealthiest members of Congress . Flores, the chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, sent a letter to colleagues this weekend announcing his intention to seek the speakership, while McCaul, the chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, is "very strongly considering running," according to a source familiar with his plans.
Both lawmakers have included the caveat, however, that they will sit out if Ryan gets in — at which point they'd back Ryan wholeheartedly.
Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., is also still mulling a run for speaker, with no decisions made or announcements scheduled. He, too, would withdraw his candidacy to support Ryan, his spokeswoman confirmed Tuesday. California Rep. Darrell Issa (No. 1 on Roll Call's wealthiest list ) also suggested last week he was considering his options but ultimately believed Ryan was "the right man" for the job.
Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's abrupt decision to withdraw from the speaker's race last week basically resulted in the jumpstart of an open casting call for possible successors to succeed John A. Boehner, who had hoped to resign by the end of the month but now says he'll stay on for as long as it takes for members to pick his replacement.
McCarthy, R-Calif., was considered the establishment pick for speaker, and most lawmakers expected he would win, albeit after a potentially ugly election on the House floor. His challengers, Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz of Utah and rank-and-file Florida Rep. Daniel Webster, were and are considered long shots, but McCarthy's exit from the race has empowered them and others.
In short, there is a dearth of establishment favorites and consensus candidates, especially if Ryan refuses to enter the fray.
Many lawmakers say they are being encouraged by colleagues to make moves, including Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., the likely chairwoman of the new investigative subcommittee committee on Planned Parenthood and so far the only GOP woman publicly mulling a bid for speaker.
News reports list at least three other Texas GOP lawmakers as possible contenders for speaker: Agriculture Chairman K. Michael Conaway, Rules Chairman Pete Sessions and Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry. Thornberry's spokesman, however, told CQ Roll Call Tuesday morning not to believe the hype about his boss: "He has no interest in that position. None."
Reps. Mike Pompeo of Kansas and Peter Roskam of Illinois have also been named as interested parties, and last week National Republican Campaign Committee Chairman Greg Walden of Oregon was telling people he would agree to be an interim speaker if colleagues wanted him.
Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., told reporters last week he would be staying in the No. 3 slot for the foreseeable future.
But until Ryan makes a decision, everything else seems to be in flux. In the meantime, Ryan's spokeswoman Brendan Buck is policing social media to make sure reporters don't spread misinformation about the Wisconsin Republican's plans.
On Monday morning, he tweeted: "Before you ask, nothing has changed and I don't anticipate any news this week."