Denying that the House of Representatives has descended into chaos since the top contender for the speaker’s chair abruptly stepped down last week, U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., welcomed the emergence of a unifying candidate who could gain the support of moderate Republicans and more conservative dissenters like himself.
Mulvaney, the Indian Land Republican who represents South Carolina’s 5th congressional district, appeared on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday morning to address the suddenly open speaker’s race and what candidates might be able to win the support of the House Freedom Caucus, the conservative group of lawmakers that has often clashed with GOP leadership.
Asked whether Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan could be a consensus candidate between right and center within the party, Mulvaney said he would consider Ryan for the job if he jumped in, but for now he and other members of the Freedom Caucus are supporting Florida’s Daniel Webster, who challenged House majority leader Kevin McCarthy for the chamber’s top job.
But he believes Ryan shares the caucus’s goals of taking more decision-making power out of the speaker’s hands, making sure “members have a chance to participate” and committees can operate more independently.
Anyone who committed to changing House rules could “deliver an overwhelming majority of the House,” the congressman said.
“It’s more about the principle than the person,” Mulvaney said, “but I think Paul would be a good speaker.”
But it’s not clear Ryan is interested in the job. The 2012 vice presidential nominee issued a statement Thursday saying he would rather stay on in his current position as chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, shortly after McCarthy surprised the Capitol by dropping out of the speaker’s race, a race he had been expected to win. No other House member seems to have a clear path to the 218 votes needed to win an election from the floor.
Despite being the second most senior Republican in the House, McCarthy did not have the support of the Freedom Caucus’s estimated 40 members, enough to deny him a majority. The caucus had also posed a challenge to outgoing Speaker John Boehner, who often differed with more conservative members on the House’s priorities.
When Boehner declined to wage a budget fight last month over federal funding for Planned Parenthood – a fight that could have led to another government shutdown – Mulvaney, a founding member of the Freedom Caucus, was one congressman who called for a leadership vote to oust Boehner. The Ohio Republican instead opted to stand down after almost five years in the speaker’s chair.
But Mulvaney told “Face the Nation” the House has not been plunged into “chaos” by the uncertainty over the next speaker. Rather, he said, several meetings and a floor vote went forward as usual on Friday. Any perception otherwise is fueled by the “media circus” on Capitol Hill around the speaker election.
Mulvaney even said he would support extending the national debt ceiling, which Congress must do later this month to keep the country from defaulting on its debts, as long as “that action fixes the reason we have a debt ceiling problem in the first place.”