WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan endorsed Republican House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to be his successor, NBC News reported on Friday.
"We all think that Kevin is the right person," Ryan said in an interview airing on Sunday on “Meet the Press.”
Ryan said on Wednesday that he would not seek re-election in November, dealing a blow to fellow Republicans and President Donald Trump before the congressional elections.
The announcement dismayed some Republicans already concerned about their prospects with U.S. voters in November. Now they fear they may have to deal with a House of Representatives leadership struggle when the party should focus on defending its congressional majorities and advancing Trump's agenda.
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Ryan's endorsement, however, gives McCarthy an edge in the leadership contest.
Ryan told NBC he believed having McCarthy step in would work toward a more smooth transition in House leadership.
"We have made a huge positive difference in people’s lives, and people are more confident as a result of it," Ryan said. "This leadership team has done that, and so I really do envision a more seamless transition, versus say the time when I came in."
Another name circulating as a possible Ryan replacement was House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who was wounded by a gunman last year. He and McCarthy are expected to wage a furious effort to raise campaign funds for fellow House Republicans to shore up support for their potential leadership aspirations.
Representative Jim Jordan, a co-founder of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, whose members have at times clashed with Ryan and other Republican leaders, said he is also open to pursuing the role of speaker.
“We have six more months to prove Republicans deserve to keep the majority. If and when there is a Speaker’s race, colleagues have approached me about running and that’s something I’m open to doing,” Jordan said in an emailed statement on Friday to Reuters.
(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and David Gregorio)