House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Monday categorically denied that he’s spoken with Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney about replacing Paul Ryan as House speaker before the election.
“No, there is no plan and Mick has not talked to me about coming up with a plan,” the California Republican said after being asked about comments Mulvaney made at a Colorado conference sponsored by the Weekly Standard. Fox News’ Bret Baier asked Mulvaney what he thought of the idea that Ryan should step down and allow McCarthy, whom Ryan has endorsed to replace him, to become speaker this year. Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, has said repeatedly that he’s not planning to leave before the end of his term in January.
“I’ve talked with Kevin about this privately but not as much publicly,” Mulvaney told Baier over the weekend. “Wouldn’t it be great to force a Democrat running in a tight race to have to put up or shut up about voting for Nancy Pelosi eight weeks before an election? That’s a really, really good vote for us to force if we can figure out how to do it.”
McCarthy said there was absolutely no effort or scheming between the two of them to get the California congressman into the speakership before the election.
“Not on any planet,” McCarthy said on Capitol Hill. “Look, Mulvaney and I are longtime friends. We go to dinner when we’re back here on the early nights. The only thing Mulvaney has ever talked about was will you go to run for speaker if we keep the majority. Nothing different than that whatsoever.”
Asked again if there was any effort for him to become speaker, McCarthy repeated:
“No, none whatsoever. I don’t understand that Weekly Standard – I thought I was very clear on that. That is not true. I don’t know what somebody is trying to create here, but not true. … Paul is here until the end of the election.”
McCarthy did say he and Mulvaney talk about “how divided the Democrats are” but that “no way did we ever have any conversation about Paul leaving early.”
Mulvany’s spokeswoman Meghan Burris called the comments from the weekend “purely hypothetical”:
“Mick works on a regular basis with the speaker and majority leader and his comments Sunday morning were purely hypothetical,” Burris said. “He is supportive of the speaker. He is also supportive of any ideas that unite Republicans and divide Democrats, which is what his comments at the conference referenced. He is not ‘working behind the scenes’ for an early speaker’s race nor getting involved in any leadership races.”
CNN’s Elizabeth Landers contributed to this report.