(Bloomberg) — Rep. Paul Ryan is under heavy pressure from fellow Republicans to run for U.S. House speaker after a hard-line faction forced Speaker John Boehner to resign and his top lieutenant, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, to drop out of the race.
“I have nothing new to say,” Ryan said while entering a meeting of party members Friday that ended without any decision from the Wisconsin Republican. A day earlier, Ryan and his aide repeatedly said he wouldn’t run for the job. Rep. Chris Stewart said Ryan told him he is “thinking about it.”
“There will be an-all out push to get him to reconsider his position,” said Republican Stephen Womack of Arkansas. “For this position, let’s face it, our bench is not deep.”
The Republican turmoil is occurring just weeks before critical deadlines to raise the U.S. debt limit and fund the government. The calendar is tight to avoid fiscal calamity — a default deadline Nov. 5, followed by a possible U.S. government shutdown Dec. 11.
Boehner told Republicans during Friday’s meeting that he is determined to get a deal to raise the debt limit, said Rep. Dennis Ross. The speaker acknowledged that getting enough votes to pass a debt-limit increase would be difficult even if the late Mother Teresa were attached to it, Ross said. Boehner had planned to leave Congress by the end of October, but has said he’ll stay until a new speaker is chosen.
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Ryan, 45, of Wisconsin — chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and the party’s 2012 vice presidential nominee — is viewed as a unifying force. His biggest bipartisan accomplishment was a two-year budget deal he negotiated with Democratic Senator Patty Murray in 2013. Stewart of Utah said that among Ryan’s strengths are national experience and fundraising prowess.
“His time is now, and many of us believe he will answer the call,” said Rep. Darrell Issa of California. “He’s gone from a hard ‘no’ to knowing he has to consider it.”
Jason Chaffetz of Utah, who declared his candidacy for speaker earlier, said, “I would not run against Paul Ryan.”
Rep. Mark Meadows, a member of the House Freedom Caucus, said Ryan didn’t announce his intentions during the meeting and that conservatives are waiting to see who emerges. The Freedom Caucus is a group of almost 40 conservatives instrumental in Boehner’s departure and McCarthy’s decision not to seek the top job.
Meadows wouldn’t say whether he would support Ryan. “Certainly he would be a very credible candidate,” he said.
Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, chairman of the 45-member Tea Party Caucus, told reporters Thursday that if Ryan did run for speaker, he would have to appear before conservatives and answer questions the same as any other candidate.
On Thursday, Ryan canceled fundraisers he had scheduled for the next two days, a Republican leadership aide said.