After last week’s surprising twist in the race for speaker of the House, with the withdrawal of the leading candidate, the selection of who ascends to the the most powerful post on Capitol Hill is now shaping up as either a coronation of one or a mad dash of many.
Ambitious Texas lawmakers are not taking any chances that Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the prohibitive favorite of most Republicans, is going to run.
Four high-ranking Texas Republicans – Reps. Bill Flores of Waco, Mike Conaway of Midland, Pete Sessions of Dallas and Mike McCaul of Austin – are putting out the word to GOP colleagues that they’re interested in being speaker, but careful to say that is Ryan-contingent.
Ryan, the party’s 2012 vice presidential nominee, has previously said he wanted to remain as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. He’s back in Wisconsin weighing his decision as the House is in recess for the week-long Columbus Day break.
That has left enough of an opening for the Texans to start jockeying for position.
Flores, the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, a conservative group within the GOP conference, started talking about running for speaker immediately after House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., shocked members last week just before the vote for speaker by withdrawing as a candidate.
“Many of you have asked me to consider serving as speaker of the House,” Flores said in a letter Wednesday to the 247-member Republican conference. “I am humbled to have my name mentioned as a potential candidate, and I am considering the pursuit of the speakership in response to those requests.”
But he stated – “unequivocally” – that he would not run if Ryan does.
Conaway, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, said in a statement to McClatchy: “I’m flattered and there are conversations going on within the family, the 25 Texans and the 247 Members of our Republican Conference, member to member, as to who that person might be.” But he declined to comment about his own potential interest in the job.
Sources close to both Sessions, chairman of the Rules Committee, and McCaul, who heads the Homeland Security Committee – both speaking not for attribution because of the sensitivity of the issue – said the lawmakers would be interested in the post if Ryan is not.
What does having so many would-be candidates in the mix do to Texas?
“It’s bigger than Texas,” said Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, who represents a Houston-area district. “It’s really about our country.”
Brady said that the Texas delegation is “blessed with talent” and that the members would coalesce behind a candidate, assuming Ryan doesn’t run. Brady serves on Ways and Means with him and would be a likely successor to the Wisconsin congressman as chairman.
Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, who represents a district north of Fort Worth, said, “Until people actually file to run, it’s dangerous to offer or withhold support.”
The dean of the Texas delegation, Rep. Joe Barton, who represents Arlington, said last week that the GOP members will not endorse any candidate, but will be “unified in support of a conservative candidate that shares Texas values. That candidate may, in fact, be a Texan."
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, triggered what appeared to be a musical chairs election among leaders when he announced that he was stepping down at the end of October and scheduled the election to replace him for Oct. 8.
Boehner told Republicans Friday that he was still planning on retiring at the end of the month, but has not announced an election date. The entire House votes for speaker even though the candidate of the Republican majority is all but certain to win.