Capitol Hill insiders are speculating House Speaker Paul Ryan will resign from that position after Tuesday’s election.
The rumors, first reported by The Hill, come amid speculation Ryan does not have the support of 218 Republicans to stay Speaker in the next session of Congress.
Under House rules, the Speaker must be elected by a majority of the full chamber. That prevents any Democrat from becoming Speaker, but also means Ryan could be blocked from re-election should 20-30 Republicans withhold their votes.
Ryan’s office is shooting down those rumors.
“He is running. The Speaker’s only focus until Election Day is defeating Democrats and protecting our majority, and nothing else,” Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong tells The Hill.
But there is some fire with that smoke.
Ryan never wanted to be Speaker, and the responsibility of trying to unite the Republican caucus that comes with it, only taking the position after other Republican leaders could not attract 218 votes.
He has long wanted instead to be Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. It’s a powerful post, and with more job security than the speakership.
The Hill speculates Ryan could propose a “switch” with current Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, with Ryan taking over the Committee and Brady running for Speaker with Ryan’s backing.
The possibility Ryan would pass on another term as Speaker is setting off a quiet scramble among Republicans. None want to be seen as disloyal to Ryan, or to create a pre-election distraction, but jockeying is already taking place behind the scenes.
House Republicans will meet on Nov. 15 to elect a Speaker for the next term, assuming they maintain their House majority.
Some conservatives are pushing Texas Congressman Jeb Hensarling to run for Speaker, should Ryan decline.
Hensarling, a conservative, is sticking with Ryan, for now.
“As is well known, Chairman Hensarling is a good friend and strong supporter of Speaker Ryan. He looks forward to continuing to work with Speaker Ryan next Congress to advance conservative Republican policies,” Hensarling spokeswoman Sarah Rozier tells The Hill.