Speaker Paul Ryan endorsed House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to succeed him as speaker in an interview set to run Sunday on “Meet the Press.”
The Wisconsin Republican told NBC’s Chuck Todd that “we all think that Kevin is the right person” and predicted a “seamless transition.” He said McCarthy, who failed to garner the votes in his 2015 speaker bid, would be able to muster the needed support this time because he’s been instrumental in passing GOP priorities over the past year.
“What’s changed is we have gotten a lot done. What’s changed is we came together as a team in 2015. We put together an agenda. We ran on that agenda. We won the election. We are executing that agenda. We are getting it done,” Ryan said. “So what’s changed is this leadership team has come together and gelled, this conference has been unified, and we’ve actually moved the ball and gotten things done.”
Ryan’s endorsement may not matter much in the long-run; McCarthy’s bigger problem is at the far-right end of the conference. Conservatives blocked McCarthy from the post last time around and are already signaling that they’ll be willing to do the same unless he cuts a deal and empowers the group.
House Freedom Caucus founder Jim Jordan declared that he was considering his own speakership bid on Friday morning, all but ensuring that McCarthy would not have the votes if the election were held today.
Ryan also said he still intended to serve out his term as speaker, arguing that a leadership race now would be a "needless distraction” from trying to keep the House GOP majority.
Ryan emphasized that his entire leadership team would endorse McCarthy, even though House Majority Whip Steve Scalise has not done so yet. The Louisiana Republican is interested in the post but has said he would not run against his more senior colleague.
“So Steve Scalise — it’s your understanding that he believes that Kevin McCarthy should be the heir apparent, whether it’s leader or speaker?” Todd asked.
“That’s right,” Ryan responded. “That’s right.
Asked if he would endorse McCarthy on Thursday, Scalise said it was too early to discuss endorsements.