All eyes turned to Rep. Paul Ryan Friday as the man to rescue House Republicans from their tailspin, and he was telling colleagues he was reconsidering his adamant refusals — though he’d made no firm decisions.
Mr. Ryan refused to talk to reporters, but senior Republicans said he’s giving the matter serious thought, and said he’s been receiving entreaties from major establishment figures including 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, with whom Mr. Ryan shared the ticket.
“He’s still thinking about it,” said Rep. Fred Upton, a fellow committee chairman. “He said no initially, but it’s my understanding he’s giving it second thoughts.”
Several Republicans floated their names as possible replacements for House Speaker John A. Boehner, who plans to retire at the end of this month, but most of them also said they would step aside and back Mr. Ryan should be decide he wants Congress’s top constitutional post.
“The fact is, yes, I think that I could potentially be a candidate. At the same time, I agree with the vast majority of members, I think. We need a Paul Ryan or we need somebody who is, A, experienced, B, has been a committee chairman or something other than just up through the leadership ranks,” Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican, said in an interview on MSNBC.
Mr. Issa said he fits the bill, but he and other candidates all acknowledged Mr. Ryan is the key to the conversations right now.
SEE ALSO: Kevin McCarthy, House majority leader, pulling out of race for House speaker
Mr. Ryan gained national popularity when he was vice presidential nominee in 2012, but had earned the respect of fellow House Republicans through years of work in the legislative trenches.
He is now chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and was chairman of the House Budget Committee, where he won passage of a major budget deal in 2013, which he negotiated with Sen. Patty Murray, Washington Democrat.
Mr. Ryan has repeatedly said he is not interested in the speaker’s job, having given several different explanations. Initially he said he wants to spend time with his young children and didn’t want to invest the time on the road that the speaker has to spend in fundraising and recruiting candidates. But on Thursday he said he believes his time is better spent heading the Ways and Means Committee right now.
By Friday, he was telling colleagues he was giving the job some thought.
“Paul is looking at it but it’s his decision,” Mr. McCarthy said as he emerged from an all-GOP closed-door meeting.
Mr. McCarthy had been expected to claim the GOP’s nomination to be speaker at a closed-door meeting a day earlier, but instead shocked the room by withdrawing from the race, saying he couldn’t unify the party.
SEE ALSO: Newt Gingrich open to House speaker run after Kevin McCarthy withdraws
Members of the very conservative Freedom Caucus had endorsed Mr. Webster’s bid ahead of that meeting, saying he represented the best chance to end the heavy-handed rule they attributed to GOP leadership.
On Friday, several members of the Freedom Caucus said they remain committed to Mr. Webster, though they did not have bad words to say about Mr. Ryan.
“I would want to see the full cast of candidates,” said Rep. John Fleming, Louisiana Republican. “We are going to continue our stand behind Dan Webster until such time as the number of candidates out there change.”
For now, Mr. Boehner remains speaker and has vowed to stay on until a success is found.