WASHINGTON — Amid fractious chaos in the U.S. House GOP delegation over who will be the next speaker, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan emerged late this week as a consensus choice to take the gavel. There's just one hitch: He's showing little interest in the job.
Until Ryan makes his intentions clear, House Republicans — including those from Texas — are in a holding pattern when it comes to backing a candidate.
Even U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Midland, who's considering his own run for speaker, said he would back a Ryan run.
"We have a lot of folks waiting on Paul Ryan to decide what he's going to do," Conaway said. "He's the one guy if he announced, it would be a kind of take-out announcement."
"He's got a hard decision to make, and most folks" are waiting on his decision before they take any steps, Conaway added. "If Paul decides [to run], then I would back him ... because I think he's doing a good job."
On Thursday, U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy withdrew from the race to replace outgoing Speaker John Boehner. The mood on Capitol Hill hours after his dramatic announcement was electric and explosive.
A day later, there was exhaustion and unease.
Many House Republicans are hoping that Ryan will accept the job and unite the fractured delegation. They worry that if he declines the opportunity, there is no clear alternative.
After members finished their work on the House floor Friday afternoon, they raced off quickly to head home, with many declining to talk about speaker's race.
Thanks to his run on the 2012 presidential ticket with Mitt Romney, Ryan is nationally known. In Congress, he has a wonkish image and is seen as a conservative champion and expert on fiscal policy.
That conservative streak pleases many — but not all — of the most right-wing conservatives in Congress. And yet he is also a team player among Republicans, with his strong fundraising abilities and role as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee (the tax-writing arm of the Congress.)
At 45, he is young for congressional standards, and he could one day run for president or serve as speaker during a less turbulent era. Ryan points to his young family as the source of his reluctance to take the job, which requires constant travel and fundraising.
The emergence of Ryan overshadows other possible Republican contenders for the speaker's gavel — including those from Texas.
Besides Conaway, U.S. Rep. Bill Flores, R-Bryan, the chairman of the powerful Republican Study Committee, is reportedly exploring a run. The Dallas Morning News reported Friday that U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, is also giving consideration to a run. All three men have high profiles as Republican leaders on Capitol Hill.
"I respect Leader McCarthy's selfless decision to withdraw from the race for Speaker," McCaul said in a statement. "Having conferred with the Texas Delegation, I will be taking a hard look at any potential candidate, and will support an experienced, conservative candidate who can help unify the Republican Conference and Party."
U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Dallas, had been considered a contender for a leadership post, but he ruled out a bid days after Boehner's announcement.
Any lobbying from within the Texas delegation is limited. This morning, a rank-and-file Republican from outside of the delegation told the Tribune that there had been no outreach to this member's office from Texans looking to be speaker.
And there is another layer of uncertainty when it comes to Republican leadership in the House.
If McCarthy stays in Congress and continues as House Majority Leader, there would be a chain reaction. That could impact the leadership prospects of U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Dallas. Sessions had previously announced his bid for House majority whip, the lead Republican House floor vote counter. But if McCarthy stays in his current role, there might not be an opening for Sessions after all.