Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has having an extremely bad go of things lately. Months after announcing his decision not to run for re-election this coming November, congressional Republicans are in something of a semi-open revolt against him, intentionally tanking high-stakes legislation and threatening to destroy any hope the GOP has of keeping control of the House. Now, Ryan has been reduced to publicly pleading for everyone around him to calm down and not dump him.
At the heart of the GOP rebellion is the very real prospect of an immigration bill being brought to the House floor. A growing group of electorally threatened GOP lawmakers have spent the past several weeks collecting signatures for a so-called “discharge petition” that would force a vote on immigration legislation over Ryan’s objections. Hardline Republicans are adamantly opposed to this prospect.
“If we run an amnesty bill out of a Republican House, I think all options are on the table,” far right Freedom Caucus member Scott Perry threatened when asked by reporters about Ryan’s chances of remaining speaker through the rest of the congressional term.
But the threats are coming from both directions. Chicago businessman and Republican mega-donor John Rowe announced this week that he would decrease—or stop entirely—donations to Republican congressmen and women who don’t sign onto the discharge petition to force an immigration vote. He’s also rewarded those Republicans who have signed, raising $50,000 last week for the petition’s author, Florida Rep. Carlos Curbelo.
There have already been rumors swirling about a potential fight for Ryan’s job in the coming months. Both House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and Majority Whip Steve Scalise have been lobbying fairly transparently for the job, with White House budget director Mick Mulvaney joining the fray by suggesting a speaker’s race could be used as a referendum to force Democrats into awkward political issues. It’s an idea, Mulvaney claimed, he’s “talked with Kevin [McCarthy] about.”
Ryan has attempted to calm the waters in recent days. According to Politico, he spent his Tuesday “[pleading] with his conference...to come together after a tumultuous few days of infighting.”
As the Washington Post reported on Tuesday night, he then openly begged for everyone to be cool.
“Our members realize what we want to do is act on our agenda, improve people’s lives,” Ryan told reporters. “And having a divisive leadership election at this time would prevent us from doing that.”
Those pleas, however, don’t seem to be working.