Ryan Willing to Serve as Speaker—if He Gets What He Wants

Republicans "need to move from an op­pos­i­tion party to be­ing a pro­pos­i­tion party," said Rep. Paul Ryan. Republicans "need to move from an op­pos­i­tion party to be­ing a pro­pos­i­tion party," said Rep. Paul Ryan. Andrew Harnik/AP

Rep. Paul Ry­an still isn’t a yes. But he’s get­ting close.

After weeks of an­guish with­in his con­fer­ence over who could feas­ibly lead the frag­men­ted Re­pub­lic­an con­fer­ence, Ry­an presen­ted his GOP col­leagues Tues­day night with a series of con­di­tions un­der which he would be will­ing to serve as speak­er. Though it’s not a done deal, his state­ment offered Re­pub­lic­ans their clearest glim­mer of hope since Speak­er John Boehner an­nounced his plan to resign and Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Kev­in Mc­Carthy de­cided not to run for the top job.

“To­night, Con­gress­man Ry­an laid out to his col­leagues why he be­lieves we are in this situ­ation and what he thinks is needed for us to move for­ward as a team,” Ry­an spokes­man Brendan Buck said in an email after Tues­day’s meet­ing. “He did not an­nounce a fi­nal de­cision on the speak­er­ship, but he did dis­cuss what’s ne­ces­sary, in his view, for the next speak­er to be suc­cess­ful.”

Ry­an, Buck said, made clear that the next speak­er needs to lay out a clear­er policy vis­ion, needs to es­tab­lish a bal­ance that al­lows time with fam­ily, needs party unity, and needs to not face the con­stant threat that a mem­ber can move to va­cate the chair—the threat that helped prompt Boehner to quit.

Ry­an ex­pan­ded on those pro­pos­als in a press con­fer­ence after the meet­ing.

“We need to move from an op­pos­i­tion party to be­ing a pro­pos­i­tion party,” Ry­an said.  “Be­cause we think the na­tion is on the wrong path, we have a duty to show the right one.” He voiced sup­port for up­dat­ing House rules to en­sure that “every­one can be a more ef­fect­ive rep­res­ent­at­ive.”

The 45-year-old, in dis­cuss­ing rules changes, signaled that he’s not in­ter­ested in serving un­der the threat of chal­lenges from with­in the GOP ranks. “We need to do this as a team, and it needs to in­clude fixes that en­sure that we do not ex­per­i­ence con­stant lead­er­ship chal­lenges and crises,” Ry­an said.

Fi­nally, he in­sisted that he would serve in a way that en­sured he could spend ample time with his fam­ily, which in­cludes school-age chil­dren. “I can­not and I will not give up my fam­ily time. I may not be on the road as of­ten as pre­vi­ous speak­ers, but I pledge to try and make up for it with more time com­mu­nic­at­ing our vis­ion, our mes­sage,” Ry­an said.

“What  I told mem­bers is, if you can agree to these re­quests, and if I can truly be a uni­fy­ing fig­ure, than I will gladly serve,” he said.

Ry­an hopes the con­fer­ence will de­cide by the end of this week wheth­er it can sup­port him and his re­quests, Rep. Dar­rell Issa said.

Soon after the meet­ing, an­oth­er con­tender for speak­er, Rep. Jason Chaf­fetz, said he would give way. “I am out, and in with Paul,” Chaf­fetz said.

Ry­an’s entry in­to the race would help quell con­cerns com­ing from many mod­er­ate and es­tab­lish­ment mem­bers in the party that Boehner’s exit would leave be­hind a power va­cu­um and make the party look splintered just a year be­fore a pres­id­en­tial elec­tion.

Yet, even as many in the con­fer­ence would cheer, Ry­an will still face many of the same obstacles that Boehner was up against over the past five years. He will have to con­tend with the Free­dom Caucus, a group of 40 or so House Re­pub­lic­ans who rep­res­ent the most con­ser­vat­ive wing of the party. That seg­ment of the party has said it will sup­port Rep. Daniel Web­ster for speak­er and has called on a series of rules changes to make the le­gis­lat­ing pro­cess more rep­res­ent­at­ive.

Rep. Bill Flores, chair­man of an­oth­er con­ser­vat­ive fac­tion—the Re­pub­lic­an Study Com­mit­tee—said the RSC would meet Wed­nes­day to dis­cuss wheth­er it could sup­port Ry­an.

Rep. Marlin Stutz­man said he was open to con­sid­er­ing Ry­an, and that the Free­dom Caucus would take a look.

Rep. Matt Sal­mon ad­ded: “I can’t speak for the en­tire Free­dom Caucus. As far as I am con­cerned, I think he made some very reas­on­able ob­ser­va­tions about how any­body would need to have the sup­port of the en­tire con­fer­ence if they are go­ing to be suc­cess­ful as speak­er.”

Asked if he is per­son­ally sold on Ry­an, Sal­mon said, “Not yet, but I am cer­tainly open. I have not closed any doors what­so­ever.”

Rep. Peter King told Na­tion­al Journ­al that Ry­an told the con­fer­ence that he would “take ar­rows to the chest, but not in the back” and he would not be will­ing to be the “third log in the fire,” a ref­er­ence to con­ser­vat­ives’ push­back against Boehner and Mc­Carthy.

And con­ser­vat­ive Rep. Mark San­ford said: “I think he could well be the uni­fy­ing fig­ure the con­fer­ence has been look­ing for.”

While Ry­an’s style is far dif­fer­ent from Boehner’s, Ry­an re­mains close to the party’s lead­ers and has un­veiled mo­nu­ment­al budget blue­prints, hashed out budget com­prom­ises with Demo­crats, and ushered in a bi­par­tis­an trade deal through Con­gress with the bless­ing of the pres­id­ent.

Ry­an is also a ma­jor fun­draiser for Re­pub­lic­ans. He has raked in $40 mil­lion over the course of his ca­reer, ac­cord­ing to a re­port from the Cen­ter for Re­spons­ive Polit­ics.

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