By Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan is running again for the job in the next Congress, a spokeswoman said on Thursday after a media report quoted several unidentified House Republicans as saying they expected him to step down next week.
"He is running," Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said.
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The Hill cited four House Republicans as saying that they expected Ryan to step aside as Speaker after next Tuesday's general election.
"Speculation is growing that Paul will not return," the Hill quoted a "senior GOP lawmaker close to leadership" as saying.
It quoted a member of the Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative Republicans, as saying that if Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton wins, Ryan will get "a good share of the blame" among House members who support Republican candidate Donald Trump.
Ryan last month told fellow Republicans that he would not defend or campaign for Trump and would instead focus on re-electing Republicans to keep the majority in the House.
This angered some Trump supporters in the House, who felt the Wisconsin congressman should stand by Trump. One of them, Representative Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma, tweeted: "if Paul Ryan isn't for Trump, then I'm not for Paul Ryan."
But Ryan, who as Speaker is the country's highest-ranking Republican, has a great deal of support in the Republican caucus, and it is far from clear that his critics would be able to oust him if they tried.
House Republicans, who currently number 246, plan to have closed-door leadership elections in mid-November. Ryan is expected to win their nomination for Speaker at that gathering, but the actual election to the Speaker's post would not be held until the new Congress convenes in January.
All members of the House, both Republican and Democrat, will vote in the Speaker election and Ryan will need 218 votes - a majority of the House's 435 members - to win. This could be a challenge if Republicans lose a substantial number of seats in next week's elections, and if some of those who remain decide to oppose Ryan.
(Reporting by Susan Cornwell; editing by Grant McCool)