Conservative Republicans in the House are holding discussions on the possibility of mounting a challenge to House Speaker Paul Ryan, according to sources familiar with the subject.
The Washington Post reported that members of the Freedom Caucus, including its chairman Rep. Mark Meadows, have consulted with Breitbart News editor Stephen Bannon about the matter.
Bannon, who resigned from his position as President Donald Trump's chief strategist in August, reportedly floated the possibility of convincing former House Speaker Newt Gingrich or former Sen. Rick Santorum to replace Ryan. The Constitution does not require the House Speaker to be a member of the chamber.
Both Santorum and Gingrich have dismissed the speculation, and the Post noted that it is unlikely either of them could gain enough votes to challenge Ryan.
However, the reports reflect growing frustration among conservative Republicans.
"I don't want to go there yet," Rep. Dave Brat said, referring to a possible change of leadership. "But it's up to the leadership, right now, to get it straight."
Brat was speaking prior to Trump making an unexpected deal on Sept. 6 with congressional Democrats on the debt ceiling, which angered several GOP members.
"While some have advocated for a 'clean' debt limit increase, this would simply increase the borrowing authority of the government while irresponsibly ignoring the urgency of reform," Mark Walker, chairman of the Republican Study Committee, a 150-member conservative group in the House, wrote in a letter to Ryan reported by Politico. "Worse yet is attaching the debt limit to legislation that continues the status quo or even worsens the trajectory on spending, such as the deal announced yesterday by the President and Congressional leadership."
Former Breitbart spokesman Kurt Bardella suggested that Trump's presence in the White House could enable the Freedom Caucus to wield more power than expected if the caucus' members decided to challenge Ryan.
"The core difference is before you didn't have an occupant in the Oval Office who would have signed any of this into law under any scenario, and certainly wouldn't have cheered them on under any circumstances," Bardella told the Post. "You have this perfect storm of a very condensed legislative calendar, a number of quote unquote must-pass vehicles -- from the debt ceiling to storm relief -- and they're in the enviable position of having everything to gain and nothing to lose."
Republican Rep. Peter King challenged this view, arguing that Trump's readiness to make a deal with the Democrats weakened conservatives in the GOP.
"He showed the Freedom Caucus that he doesn't have to cater to them and won't cater to them when it comes to the debt ceiling and how it all plays out -- that sets them back," King told the Post. "They weren't elected to run the country and they can't be going on suicide missions. Yet they continue to do that because a lot of them live in silos, these echo chambers where they can have their own way."
Sources: Washington Post, Politico / Featured Image: U.S. Congress/Wikimedia Commons / Embedded Images: Office of the Vice President of the United States/Twitter via Wikimedia Commons, Jim Mattis/Flickr via Wikimedia Commons