Ryan’s Speakership Appears Safe After GOP Election Sweep

Several House Republicans say they expect Ryan will win another term

Speaker Paul D. Ryan should not face problems getting re-elected to leadership, members say. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Speaker Paul D. Ryan should not face problems getting re-elected to leadership, members say. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted November 10, 2016 at 5:00am

A chorus of House Republicans on Wednesday came out in support of Speaker Paul D. Ryan remaining in leadership, signaling that a movement to oust him is not on the horizon. 

The House Republican Conference will hold its closed-door leadership elections Nov. 15. The top four leaders — Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Majority Whip Steve Scalise and Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers — have all announced their intention to run for re-election. 

[A Guide to House Leadership, Committee, Caucus Elections]

“I’ve been on multiple conference calls today, and I don’t catch a whiff of opposition to any of the big four,” Oklahoma GOP Rep. Tom Cole said in an interview. 

Before Republicans swept to big election night victories, speculation swirled over a possible challenge to Ryan from the House conservative wing that frequently opposes leadership. There was also a feeling that if GOP nominee Donald Trump lost, members would partially blame Ryan, pointing to his tepid support of the Republican standard-bearer.

Now that Trump not only won but also helped lift GOP down-ballot candidates to victories, there doesn’t appear to be anyone aiming to oust Ryan.

“My personal opinion is that since we won the presidency we’re going to let bygones be bygones,” Rep. Andy Harris told Roll Call. “People will want to give the new Republican team a chance.”

The Maryland Republican said he favors giving Ryan the opportunity to perform when he doesn’t have an antagonist in the White House like President Barack Obama. 

Harris, a member of both the House Freedom Caucus and the Republican Study Committee, the two conservative caucuses within the House GOP, said he thinks “the vast majority” of his colleagues will support Ryan. But Harris, a candidate for the RSC chairmanship, said he could not predict whether Ryan will get to the “magic number” of 218 member votes needed to be elected speaker in a January floor vote. 

The conference vote for speaker and other leadership positions on Nov. 15 only requires a candidate to win a simple majority of votes cast. For every position but the speaker, the conference vote ensures the candidates’ election. 

New York Republican Rep. Peter King said he expects Ryan to get support from at least 80 to 90 percent of members in the secret-ballot election.

Fellow New York GOP Rep. Chris Collins, one of Trump’s surrogates in Congress, told CNN on Wednesday that “there’s no question” that Ryan will be re-elected speaker. 

“I believe that’s a slam dunk,” Collins said. “I don’t believe there’s anyone even running against our leadership team.”

Collins, who said he hopes to serve as a liaison between Ryan and Trump, said the speaker and his leadership team have done “a marvelous job” raising money for the party and helping Republicans get re-elected. 

Other members agreed that Tuesday’s results, in which House Republicans held their net losses to under 10 seats, helped quell any frustration that may have been forming against Ryan. 

“Victory heals a lot of divisions,” Cole said. “It’s hard to argue that any of them didn’t do their jobs when we’ve been more successful than probably anyone expected in retaining this majority.”

Texas Republican Rep. Bill Flores, the outgoing chairman of the RSC, said he expects Trump and Ryan to mend fences and House Republicans to do the same in the interest of advancing a GOP agenda. 

“They didn’t put us in office to fight with each other. They put us in office to get something done,” said Flores, who is seeking to join the GOP leadership team as vice chairman of the conference. 

[Bill Flores Running for Vice Chair of GOP Conference]

The big unanswered question is whether Trump can get over his grudge against Ryan.

After the speaker announced in early October that he would no longer defend Trump following the release of the 2005 tape in which the GOP nominee boasted about groping women, Trump retaliated by attacking Ryan on Twitter and during campaign rallies. In one tweet, Trump called the speaker “weak and ineffective.”

Trump should not be threatened by Ryan, King said. “He should expect Paul Ryan to work with him and Paul wants to,” he said. 

King said he talked to Trump at his victory party in New York and that he believes the president-elect wants to work with Congress, too. 

After a brief conversation in which Trump thanked King for his support, the newly elected president walked away, before stopping to come back, King said, recalling Trump say, “Don’t worry I’ll be working with you.”

King said he interpreted the “you” as a generic “you,” referring to the Republicans in Congress.

Ryan has also sent plenty of signals that he is willing to work with Trump. The two spoke at least twice in the 24 hours since the election and were planning to meet soon. 

When Ryan talked about Trump’s victory on a conference call with House Republicans Wednesday afternoon and relayed his conversations with the president-elect, he “seemed almost animated by it,” King said.  

Democrats also held a conference call Wednesday to discuss the election results.

The call, which included leaders and rank-and-file members, partially focused on the seats Democrats managed to gain, according to one Democratic aide who was on the call. But members also acknowledged the tally was nowhere near what Democrats could have gotten, the aide said.

On Election Day, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said her goal of winning 20 seats — or of taking back the House — was thwarted by FBI Director James Comey’s actions in the days before voters hit the polls.

Comey’s announcement that his agency would review additional emails related to an investigation involving Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server threw a “Molotov cocktail” into the prospect, Pelosi said. 

House Democrats on the conference call Wednesday did not express frustration toward Pelosi, the aide said. 

Rema Rahman contributed to this report.