Moderate Republicans’ Threat: Paul Ryan for Speaker—or We Quit

Confusion over who the next speaker could be is throwing a wrench into Republicans’ plans to protect the party’s less conservative members, many of whom represent battleground districts.

Rep. Paul Ryan
AP Photo/Molly Riley
Jack Fitzpatrick
Add to Briefcase
Jack Fitzpatrick
Oct. 19, 2015, 8 p.m.

Some Re­pub­lic­ans are so des­per­ate for Paul Ry­an to step up as the next speak­er of the House that they’ve star­ted talk­ing about re­tir­ing if he doesn’t, ac­cord­ing to a group that works on be­half of the House GOP’s more mod­er­ate mem­bers.

After Ry­an, those mem­bers have no second choice or even a second tier of po­ten­tial speak­ers, said Sarah Cham­ber­lain, chief op­er­at­ing and fin­an­cial of­ficer for the Re­pub­lic­an Main Street Part­ner­ship, a group that backs “main­stream” Re­pub­lic­ans and plans to spend mil­lions help­ing them pro­tect their House seats in 2016.

“De­pend­ing on how this shakes out, you may see some Main Street mem­bers re­tire,” Cham­ber­lain said in an in­ter­view. “… They’re hop­ing for a Ry­an-type can­did­ate. But if it’s not and it be­comes a huge mess, why be sit­ting here?”

Pennsylvania Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Charlie Dent said he’s cur­rently not talk­ing about re­tire­ment, but he said that between the speak­er’s race, the pres­id­en­tial cam­paign, and the nu­mer­ous battles that House Re­pub­lic­ans face, he may re­con­sider. If the House has an­oth­er fight over Planned Par­ent­hood and nears a shut­down on Dec. 11, little more than two months after House con­ser­vat­ives de­railed Kev­in Mc­Carthy’s bid for the speak­er­ship, Dent said he could change his mind.

“I’m pre­par­ing as if I’m run­ning for reelec­tion right now. But we’ll see what hap­pens. The next two months are go­ing to be pretty in­tense,” Dent said.

Dent and New York Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Peter King—who said he per­son­ally “would nev­er con­sider it be­cause you can’t give in”—also con­firmed that oth­er mem­bers have talked about re­tir­ing, de­pend­ing on the out­come of the speak­er’s race.

“A lot has been put on hold in both ways—people de­cid­ing to run again, or not run again,” King said.

So far, Ry­an has said he is not run­ning for speak­er, but mem­bers are try­ing to change his mind. If Ry­an con­tin­ues to de­cline and there’s even more un­cer­tainty about party lead­er­ship, it could be a drag on Re­pub­lic­an fun­drais­ing, Cham­ber­lain said.

“If Ry­an says next week that he’ll do it, I don’t think there’ll be a dip at all,” she said. “… If it’s not Ry­an, prob­ably there will be a small dip, un­til we fig­ure out who will come out as the head of the party.”

That’s es­pe­cially im­port­ant to Re­pub­lic­an groups like Main Street, which was star­ted by former Rep. Steve La­Tour­ette of Ohio and de­fends cent­rist Re­pub­lic­ans from primary- and gen­er­al-elec­tion chal­lenges. With a his­tor­ic­ally large ma­jor­ity, Re­pub­lic­ans find them­selves de­fend­ing a high num­ber of mod­er­ates who rep­res­ent dis­tricts that fa­vor Demo­crats, such as Rep. John Katko of New York and Rep. Robert Dold of Illinois.

To help de­fend that ma­jor­ity, the Re­pub­lic­an Main Street Part­ner­ship and the De­fend­ing Main Street su­per PAC will spend $10 mil­lion to $12 mil­lion this cycle, Cham­ber­lain said. But be­fore the groups can de­fend Re­pub­lic­an-held swing dis­tricts, they have to de­fend Re­pub­lic­ans against tea-party-aligned primary chal­lengers. The top tar­gets: Rep. Ren­ee Ellmers of North Car­o­lina and Rep. Dav­id Joyce of Ohio.

Ellmers, who has three primary chal­lengers, has be­come such a tar­get that she’s already been at the cen­ter of a minor ad war. Main Street’s non­profit group, Main Street Ad­vocacy, and the lead­er­ship-aligned Amer­ic­an Ac­tion Net­work ran ra­dio and TV ads, re­spect­ively, thank­ing Ellmers for vot­ing to fund the Home­land Se­cur­ity De­part­ment earli­er this year. The Club for Growth, mean­while, ran TV ads against her for vot­ing to re­new the Ex­port-Im­port Bank.

Ellmers also found her­self in the na­tion­al news this month when Mc­Carthy dropped out of the speak­er’s race and na­tion­al me­dia out­lets, fol­low­ing con­ser­vat­ive news site Got­, re­por­ted on ru­mors of an af­fair between the two. Both law­makers denied the af­fair, and Cham­ber­lain said she’s con­fid­ent there’s noth­ing to it.

Still, there’s plenty of am­muni­tion for Ellmers’s op­pon­ents: Chath­am County GOP Chair­man Jim Duncan, former state GOP spokes­wo­man Kay Daly, and 2014 chal­lenger Frank Roche, whom Ellmers beat by 17 per­cent­age points. Roche an­nounced his can­did­acy soon after Ellmers led the Re­pub­lic­an charge against an an­ti­abor­tion bill that would ban late-term abor­tions for rape vic­tims un­less they re­por­ted the rape to law en­force­ment. Cham­ber­lain said she ex­pects that vote to be the biggest stick­ing point in Ellmers’s reelec­tion bid, but said Ellmers is “the most pro-life” of any Main Street mem­ber.

“Clearly she knows she’s vul­ner­able in that area and they’re go­ing to have to do something to pro­tect her on that,” said Sean Moser, a spokes­man for Duncan’s cam­paign.

Joyce, mean­while, faces the same chal­lenger he beat by 10 per­cent­age points in 2014: former state Rep. Matt Lynch. Lynch got in­to the race late last cycle—fil­ing his state­ment of can­did­acy in Feb­ru­ary 2014—but is more well-pre­pared this time, said spokes­wo­man Kar­en Quay.

Quay also said Joyce’s sup­port from uni­ons will be a cam­paign top­ic—and Main Street’s sup­port won’t help him there. The Re­pub­lic­an Main Street Part­ner­ship PAC has got­ten $63,750 from uni­ons this so year, nearly 10 per­cent of its total fun­drais­ing haul. The group has also brought in much more from labor-aligned trade as­so­ci­ations and non­profits.

“[T]hose dona­tions are not sur­pris­ing,” said Doug Sach­tleben, spokes­man for the Club for Growth, in an email. The Club has not made an en­dorse­ment yet in either race. “What es­tab­lish­ment Re­pub­lic­ans and labor uni­ons have in com­mon is the de­sire for big­ger gov­ern­ment.”

Main Street is happy to have the sup­port of the uni­ons that back mod­er­ate Re­pub­lic­ans, Cham­ber­lain said, say­ing at­tacks over their ties are mis­guided.

“It’s the fire­fight­ers. It’s air traffic con­trol­lers. It’s air­line pi­lots. … We do not take money from the SEIU and some of those uni­ons” that heav­ily fa­vor Demo­crats, she said. “You’re go­ing to see more uni­on money in there this cycle. And as a Re­pub­lic­an, I think we should be wel­com­ing (that).”

Main Street may have a third high-pro­file primary brew­ing in New York, where Rep. Richard Hanna is likely to face an­oth­er re­peat chal­lenger, state As­semb­ly­wo­man Claudia Ten­ney, Cham­ber­lain said. Hanna beat Ten­ney by 7 per­cent­age points in 2014 but hasn’t en­deared him­self to party mem­bers lately: Last week, Hanna said in a ra­dio in­ter­view that Kev­in Mc­Carthy’s gaffe on the House Se­lect Com­mit­tee on Benghazi was more than just a slip of the tongue.

“There was a big part of this in­vest­ig­a­tion that was de­signed to go after people and an in­di­vidu­al, Hil­lary Clin­ton,” he said.

Hanna rep­res­ents a mod­er­ate dis­trict in up­state New York and has equally cent­rist polit­ics: His sup­port for same-sex mar­riage was a ma­jor top­ic in his 2014 primary, and Cham­ber­lain said his abor­tion-rights stances will prob­ably be the sub­ject of at­tacks.

“I don’t use the word ‘mod­er­ate,’ but if you were to use the word ‘mod­er­ate,’ Richard Hanna is the poster child for ‘mod­er­ate,’” she said.

What We're Following See More »
Former Senate Intelligence Committee Staffer Pleads Guilty To Lying To FBI
6 hours ago

"Former veteran Senate Intelligence Committee staffer James Wolfe pleaded guilty on Monday to one count of making false statements to federal agents." Wolfe was indicted "earlier this year on three counts of making false statements to the FBI, which questioned him about his contacts with reporters ... According to the indictment, in October 2017 Wolfe gave a reporter ... information about an unidentified man who had been served with a subpoena to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee. The reporter published stories about the subpoena and the man's upcoming testimony in a closed committee hearing."

3.9% OF GDP
Deficit Soared to $779 Billion, Up 17%
7 hours ago

"The federal deficit widened last year amid higher government spending—including rising interest costs on the debt and increased funding for the military—and flat revenues following last year’s tax cut. The government ran a $779 billion deficit in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, the Treasury Department said Monday. That is the largest annual deficit in six years and 17% higher than the $666 billion deficit in fiscal 2017. As a share of gross domestic product, the deficit totaled 3.9%, up from 3.5% a year earlier and the third consecutive increase."

Report: Saudis Planning to Admit to Khashoggi Killing
8 hours ago
Administration May Require Drug Companies to Disclose Prices
10 hours ago
Saudis Will Let Turkish Officials Search Embassy
13 hours ago

"Saudi Arabia has given Turkey permission to search its Istanbul consulate Monday afternoon, a Turkish diplomatic source told CNN. Saudi officials first granted permission for the consulate to be searched last week, but later asked for a delay and no search has yet taken place. Turkish officials also want to search the nearby consul general's residence, and have repeatedly accused the Saudis of failing to cooperate with their investigation."


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.