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Speaker Paul Ryan said Friday he’ll seek re-election to the top job in the House if Republicans hold onto their majority, an outcome that’s widely expected in next week’s elections.
His comment comes as some House Republicans — hard-right conservatives and backers of GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump — have discussed trying to oust him from his post. He became speaker only a year ago after the far-right Freedom Caucus pressured his predecessor, John Boehner, R-Ohio, into retirement.
Some members of the roughly 40-member group have discussed opposing Ryan. They’ve expressed worries that he won’t hold out for spending curbs in upcoming negotiations with President Barack Obama and Democrats over next year’s budget.
Ryan was asked Friday during a campaign stop about a report in The Hill newspaper concerning “chatter” that he’s not interested in running for a full two-year term. Sources said he’s deterred due to the tough fight he faces for re-election as speaker, especially if Trump loses. He’s under fire not only from far-right Republicans but also some mainstream leaders over his tepid support for Trump’s presidency. Last month, following the release of a videotape from Access Hollywood in which Trump bragged about assaulting women, the congressman announced that he’d no longer publicly defend Trump or campaign with him.
If Clinton wins, he’s certain to share some of the blame.
But Ryan insists that he’s going nowhere. “Nope. Not true,” Ryan said at the campaign stop. “Don’t believe everything you read. I am interested in staying on as speaker.”
The 46-year-old congressman from Janesville was his party’s 2012 vice presidential nominee and is considered a potential future presidential candidate. He has broad support among Republicans, who control 247 House seats.
But the GOP is expected to lose some seats, although not the majority, in Tuesday’s elections, and many of the departed lawmakers are likely to be moderates who would have supported Ryan. Since Ryan would need 218 votes — a House majority — to be re-elected speaker when the new Congress convenes on Jan. 3, that change will give more leverage to the small band of dissident lawmakers who want to replace him. No Democrats would be expected to vote for him.
Ryan said he wants to keep his job to push the GOP agenda he’s been heading into Tuesday’s elections. He also denied the many obvious divisions among Republicans.
Some lawmakers and other strategists also have wondered whether Ryan might step aside rather than risk his political career by angering conservative voters. Upcoming budget talks and the need to extend federal borrowing authority next year —perhaps after negotiating with a President Hillary Clinton — could produce results that would upset such voters.