Paul Ryan said there was no one “better suited” to lead House Republicans than Kevin McCarthy.
During an ABC News interview, the ex-speaker argued that McCarthy has been “good for conservatives.”
McCarthy is trying to lock up votes to lead the House, which will have a slim GOP majority in 2023.
Former House Speaker Paul Ryan during an interview that aired on Sunday said Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California was “good for conservatives,” arguing that there’s no one “better suited” to lead the House GOP conference.
McCarthy, who is poised to become speaker in January in a House with a razor-thin GOP majority, is working to round up the requisite votes needed to run the lower chamber, but has hit stumbling blocks with several Freedom Caucus members, including Reps. Andy Biggs of Arizona and Matt Gaetz of Florida, vowing not to support him.
However, Ryan — who served as speaker from October 2015 to January 2019 amidst more robust Republican majorities — told ABC News journalist Jonathan Karl that having a narrow majority would bring together GOP lawmakers.
“There’s nothing as unifying as a really razor-thin majority. That is a unifying thing in and of itself. I’ve been in the House where we’ve had pretty tight majorities. It makes people realize, ‘I can’t get everything I want — I have to be a part of a team.’ But having said that, it’s going to be hard,” he said.
Ryan also told Karl that he believed McCarthy would get at least 218 votes on the floor, and expressed confidence in the lawmaker’s abilities to lead Republicans.
“I think he’ll get 218,” he said. “There isn’t anybody better suited to running this conference than Kevin McCarthy. He’s been good for conservatives, frankly, but he’s also a person who really understands how to manage a conference.”
When Karl asked Ryan about McCarthy allying himself with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and other members of the Freedom Caucus, the former speaker said that part of the job is knowing how to build coalitions.
“You run a coalition government when you’re speaker of the House within your own party, and we just elected a bunch of people from New York and California from what I would call more centrist moderate-leaning districts. Those are the majority makers. Kevin understands that, so you have to run a a coalition,” he said.
“He’s running a coalition government,” Ryan went on to say. “He needs the entire conference to work with him and he needs to motivate that entire conference.”
Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, a Republican member of the House January 6 committee who is retiring at the end of the current Congress, told The Bulwark’s Charlie Sykes last week that Republicans would have a “totally nonfunctional majority” with such a narrow advantage.
With only a few races left to call, Republicans are slated to hold a 219-211 edge in the House next year; 218 seats are required to control the chamber.
Ryan, who alongside Angela Rachidi of the American Enterprise Institute co-edited the new book “American Renewal: A Conservative Plan to Strengthen the Social Contract and Save the Country’s Finances,” also remarked on his successor, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California.
Pelosi, who will soon step aside from leading the House Democratic Caucus after nearly 20 years, worked with Ryan when she was minority leader and he led the chamber.
“It’s an impressive legacy,” Ryan said of Pelosi’s stint leading the House as speaker from 2007 to 2011 and 2019 to the present, and her time in Congress overall.
“Obviously, she and I usually disagree on things. But first woman speaker … a career to be proud of,” he said.
“And frankly, I think about her husband Paul a lot these days. I feel so awful about what happened to them,” Ryan added, referencing the attack on the speaker’s husband at their San Francisco home by a intruder.
Paul Pelosi fought back against his attacker but was hit in the head with a hammer and hospitalized with a skull fracture. He has since been released.
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