Trump Congress Health Care

President Donald Trump talks with House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Thursday, May 4, 2017, after the House pushed through a health care bill. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of La. is at left, and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas is at right. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

U.S. House leaders are pushing back against reports that House Speaker Paul Ryan will be stepping down from his post after next year's mid-term elections.

But speculation over Paul's plans, outlined in a long piece from Politico Magazine, has left many looking to U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, a Jefferson Republican who is the highest ranked and longest-serving member of Louisiana's delegation and currently sits No. 3 on the leadership ladder.

Ryan, has held the speaker's role since John Boehner stepped down in 2015. Scalise, 52, was elected whip in 2014. During the last speaker opening, Scalise was considered possibly in for a promotion if House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy ascended to the Speaker's post. McCarthy, R-California, opted to remain in the No. 2 role, leaving Scalise as whip.

In a statement to The Advocate, Scalise's office denied any maneuvering among the leadership ranks.

"We have a Republican leadership team that has been very successful at moving legislation through the House, and right now they’re working closely together to pass historic tax reform and to protect and grow our majority," Scalise spokesman Chris Bond said. "There’s simply no discussion of any changes coming to this leadership team, and no reason to believe that sort of change is on the horizon."

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said during Thursday's daily briefing that the report prompted President Donald Trump to phone Ryan to inquire about it's validity and Trump stressed that "if that news was true, he was very unhappy with it."

"The speaker assured the president that those were not accurate reports and that they look forward to working together for a long time to come," Sanders said.

Ryan also denied to reporters plans to resign.

But according to Politico's report, speculation over Ryan's future "has sparked a flurry of activity in the offices of" both McCarthy and Scalise, who the piece deems as "the two most likely successors to Ryan."

"Both believed Ryan would leave late next year and were therefore planning their next steps at an appropriately deliberate pace," Politico reported. "This has abruptly changed: According to multiple GOP sources, both McCarthy and Scalise have taken recent meetings with members loyal to them who have been eager to strategize about life after Ryan."

Some neutral observers also indicated in Politico's report that they believe Scalise has the "inside track," and that his stock has "skyrocketed" since he narrowly survived a mass shooting over the summer.

Scalise, who was critically wounded when a gunman opened fire on Republicans as they practiced for a charity baseball game, made a triumphant and highly-publicized return to the House chamber in September. He has aligned himself closely with Trump.

Shortly after he became whip in 2014, Scalise sent the House leadership into a racially-charged controversy when he admitted to having spoken to a white supremacist group in Metairie in 2002. Backed by then-Speaker Boehner, Scalise narrowly held onto his leadership post. The news that Scalise had addressed the David Duke-linked European-American Unity and Rights Organization was first reported by a left-leaning blogger.

Scalise, who spent more than a decade in the Louisiana Legislature before he was elected to Congress, publicly apologized and said he "reject(s) bigotry of all forms."

For the full report from Politico, click here. 

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.