A new report says House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) may be facing a leadership challenge if one group of influential House conservatives moves forward with its plans. The Washington Post reports that the group “has gone so far as to float the idea of recruiting former House speaker Newt Gingrich or former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum as potential replacements.”
Gingrich, who previously served as the 50th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1995 to 1999, is no longer an elected official. However, as The Post notes, the Constitution does not require an elected member of the House to serve as speaker. Yet Newt may not be able to mount a credible threat, according to insiders, nor may Santorum.
Santorum was a Republican senator from 1995–2007. From 2001 on, he was the Senate’s third-ranking Republican, and also ran for president in 2012, finishing second to Mitt Romney for the GOP nomination.
As The Post notes, “The fact the group has even toyed with the idea underscores their desire to create trouble for GOP leaders if they believe their demands are not being addressed.”
According to the report:
The closed-door conversations are being led by Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, in consultation with his allies on the right, in particular Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s former chief strategist who recently returned to his perch as executive chairman of the Breitbart News website. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and other Freedom Caucus members are also involved in the talks to varying degrees, according to nearly a dozen people with knowledge of the discussions.
On Wednesday, Meadows, Jordan and Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) took their concerns directly to Ryan, telling him in a private meeting in the Capitol that his failure to enact conservative priorities could diminish his support among conservatives.
The House Freedom Caucus includes more than 30 conservative House lawmakers who opposed the idea of combining Hurricane Harvey aid with a decision about increasing the debt ceiling. In an agreement on which some conservatives disapproved, President Trump sided with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to hold off a government shutdown until Dec. 15 and combine the two issues regarding the debt and Harvey.
The Caucus’s revolt may not be a realistic bid to push Sen. Ryan out, but it may indicate a willingness to translate their grievances into action, and to muddle an already ambitious legislative schedule.
In an interview on Tuesday, Rep. David Brat (R-Va.) said many House conservatives are unhappy with Republican leadership. Yet, when discussing a possible leadership shake-up, he reportedly said: “I don’t want to go there yet. But it’s up to the leadership, right now, to get it straight.”
Brat added, “The big picture is that we’ve failed on Obamacare, we didn’t do what we said we’d do. What’s it going to look like on tax? What about the debt ceiling? No one is really sure. We said we’d do all of these different things and we have to follow through.”
Those remarks were made before Trump upset the GOP on Wednesday with his cooperation on the debt ceiling and Harvey aid. Even Sen. Ryan disagreed with combining the issues.
According to The Post:
Bannon and Meadows have been talking for weeks and huddled Monday afternoon at the ‘Breitbart Embassy’ — a Capitol Hill townhouse that houses Bannon’s office and the website’s offices. Matthew Boyle, Breitbart’s Washington editor, also joined the conversation.
In conversations with friends and associates, Bannon has described the potential move against Ryan, should tensions escalate, as the beginning of a ‘war’ against the Republican establishment.
Kurt Bardella, a former spokesman for Breitbart News, reportedly said that if the Freedom Caucus wants to influence Republican leadership, they could do it by working with Breitbart. Especially considering that under President Trump, if they get legislation to the president, he would likely sign it, as opposed to former President Obama who realistically may not have.
He also noted that Breitbart “exists to provide Trump with who is to blame, and it’s always Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell.”
Some in the Party feel that without Sen. Ryan, who has built good relationships with his party’s members, there is no possibility of getting any legislation to pass.
Other House Republicans have reportedly ignored such concerns, and are plotting “hypothetical options should Ryan be pressured to resign, including demands for more conservative voices to hold leadership posts and possibly drafting an outside political figure,” The Post reports.
Other options for a new speaker, reportedly, include House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Sen. Joseph Scalise (R-La.). Scalise made headlines when he was shot by an assailant who opened fire on a Republican congressional softball practice in June.
However, “someone close to McCarthy” said the idea was “nonsense.”
Gingrich likewise scoffed at the notion of returning as speaker. “It would be a joke to have anyone not serving in the House or who’s familiar with the members to lead the body,” he said. “That’s antithetical to what it means to be speaker and I know what it takes to be speaker.”
Santorum also responded to the claims, stating: “To be honest with you, I don’t really know anything about it. I don’t really have any comment.”
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