The tantalizing future of New York Rep. Lee Zeldin: RNC chair? House speaker?

Two RNC committeemen say Zeldin is open to serving as a compromise House speaker should House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy fail to gain a majority vote on the House floor in January, but he says he's not "meddling" in that process.

Updated: December 8, 2022 - 11:17pm

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New York GOP Rep. Lee Zeldin may have announced that he's not seeking the Republican National Committee chairmanship at this time, but it's fueling speculation that he is positioning himself for a far more powerful GOP leadership role.

"I won't be running for RNC Chair at this time with McDaniel's reelection pre-baked by design, but that doesn't mean she should even be running again," Zeldin wrote on Twitter, referring to current RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, who is running for a fourth term.

"It's time to step aside," said Zeldin, who lost his bid for governor of New York on Nov. 8, but made it a much tighter race in the reliably blue state than political observers initially expected.

Zeldin is credited with helping the Republicans flip three House seats to the GOP in New York State, raising his profile within the party. 

Roger Villere, an RNC committeeman from Louisiana and former vice chair of the RNC, as well as Solomon Yue, RNC committeeman from Oregon, told Just the News that they've heard from numerous individuals within the GOP that Zeldin is open to serving as an alternative for speaker if House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy and Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs fail to gain enough votes to become speaker on the House floor in January.

Biggs, former House Freedom Caucus chairman, has formally announced that he will run against McCarthy for speaker in January. Biggs also challenged McCarthy for the speaker nomination at a House GOP Conference meeting in November, losing to McCarthy 188-31.

So far, five conservative Republican lawmakers have said they plan to vote against McCarthy in January. 

Zeldin rejected the speculation that he is interested in the speakership during a Fox News interview on Wednesday. 

"I am certainly not going to meddle with that process at all," he said.

Georgia GOP Rep. Austin Scott was asked about the speculation surrounding Zeldin's future.

"I wish he would run for the RNC spot," he said on the "Just the News Not Noise" TV show. 

As for the possibility of Zeldin serving as a compromise speaker option, Scott said: "I'm not aware of Lee being interested in it. I did hear his name floated out there. He's well respected in the conference, but I don't expect him to run. You know, I expect Kevin will be sworn in as the speaker of the House."

Iowa Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks also weighed in on the situation. She noted that Zeldin is not returning to the House of Representatives next session after his bid for New York governor. Although the House speaker does not technically have to be a sitting member of Congress, Miller-Meeks said she doubts Zeldin is positioning himself as an alternate candidate for speaker.

"Lee is not in the running for speaker," she said on "Just the News Not Noise." "Kevin McCarthy, Representative Kevin McCarthy has been very diligent and supporting candidates working hard to raise the money to make sure that the Republicans got in the majority. He is supported by the vast majority of members."