Freedom Caucus Chairman Won't Say Whether Paul Ryan Should Be Speaker

Not a good sign for Ryan.

WASHINGTON ― In a CNBC interview on Thursday, House Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) repeatedly refused to say whether Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) should remain speaker of the House.

“That’s a question for down the road,” Jordan said when reporter John Harwood asked him if Ryan should remain speaker.

Harwood pointed out that Jordan appeared unwilling to say Ryan should keep his position.

“I’m not saying anything,” Jordan said. “I’m just saying, ‘Look, Paul Ryan’s a good man, he’s a friend, but we are focused on getting Donald Trump elected and being the next president of the United States.’”

“There’s time to deal with who’s in leadership, who may not be in leadership, how leadership is done, what the rules are, what we’re going to focus on in the lame-duck,” Jordan continued.

Harwood pressed Jordan again, mentioning that he wasn’t hearing Jordan say Ryan was essential to achieving the goals he and other House Republicans want.

“That is a question for another day,” Jordan said. “That is a question for the House Republican conference. And that is a question that will be dealt with in due time.”

Again and again during the interview, Harwood tried to get Jordan to reveal what he and other Freedom Caucus members were thinking about Ryan. Again and again, Jordan demurred.

When Harwood asked how much dissatisfaction there was with Ryan, Jordan said he and his colleagues weren’t focused on that five days before the election. They were focused, he said, on getting Donald Trump elected president.

When Harwood noted that Trump himself had called Ryan a weak and ineffective leader, Jordan said there’d be “plenty of time to talk about that after the next five days.”

There’s been growing chatter that conservatives may block Ryan from taking a second term as speaker. Top Freedom Caucus members met in Washington on Wednesday to discuss their strategy going forward.

But there’s been little indication that the speaker would face organized opposition from the Freedom Caucus should he seek a second term. This doesn’t mean his speakership is safe, though: A number of conservatives have noted, on the record and on background, that even if the 40 or so hard-liners in the House Freedom Caucus fail to vote as a bloc, Ryan may still fall short of the votes he needs.

Jordan’s remarks on Thursday suggest the Freedom Caucus may yet organize against Ryan. It’s unusual to hear a conservative leader like Jordan leave the possibility of a speaker coup so open.

And there are some Republicans who think Ryan might just resign and not seek another term. When Harwood brought up that possibility with Jordan, noting that a Republican member had raised it with him, Jordan was unwilling to take the bait.

“You’d have to ask Speaker Ryan,” he said.

John Rieger contributed to this report.