House conservatives, led by Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), are privately plotting a leadership challenge against Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, the Washington Post reports.


During closed-door discussions, Meadows and other members of the House Freedom Caucus have floated potential replacements for Ryan, including former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and former Sen. Rick Santorum. As the Post notes, the Constitution does not require the speaker be an elected member of Congress.

Meadows, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) privately approached Ryan Wednesday to relay their grievances over his failure to successfully pass conservative legislation, sources told the Post. They’ve also been in contact with former chief White House strategist Steve Bannon—the recently reinstated executive chairman of the far-right website Breitbart News—to strategize ways to “mount a credible threat” against the current House Speaker. Meadows has been meeting with Bannon and Breitbart’s Washington editor Matthew Boyle “for weeks” at a Capitol Hill townhouse referred to as the “Breitbart Embassy.”

Rep. David Brat (R-VA) told the Post any potential shakeup is “up to the leadership,” but acknowledged his party has reached a legislative stalemate.

“The big picture is that we’ve failed on Obamacare, we didn’t do what we said we’d do,” Brat saiid. “What’s it going to look like on tax? What about the debt ceiling? No one is really sure. We said we’d do all of these different things and we have to follow through.”

Further complicating Ryan’s position as speaker is Donald Trump’s remarkable decision Wednesday to break ranks with his own party and join Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in a plan to raise the debt ceiling for a mere three months. Republicans were hoping they’d be able to extend the debt ceiling for a much longer stretch of time, and thus not require the party to repeatedly revisit a politically sensitive issue. By siding with Democrats, conservatives fear Trump provided the opposition with leverage against Republicans.

Ryan himself appeared blindsided by Trump’s decision, calling a short-term debt ceiling hike “disgraceful” mere hours before the president signed on to the plan. While some conservatives criticized Trump’s decision to side with Democrats, others—including Fox Business's Lou Dobbs, praised the president for “[booting] the hapless fool of a Speaker out of the way of those trying to get the nation’s business done.”

“The president not only took RINO [Republican In Name Only] Ryan to the woodshed but eliminated any need for any Republican to ever pretend again that Ryan is a real Republican in any way or that any RINO has a political future,” Dobbs insisted in a scorching segment Wednesday.

Conservatives’ willingness to criticize Ryan after Trump himself bucked the party in favor of the first offer put forth by rival politicians may seem antithetical to “Republican In Name Only” manta. But as former spokesman for Breitbart News Kurt Bardella explained, it’s par for the course in Trump’s GOP.

As Bardella noted, Breitbart—the site whose executive chairman (a former top White House aide) has been quietly meeting with members of the House Freedom Caucus for week—“exists to provide Trump with who is to blame.”

“It’s always Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell,” Bardella told the Post.