Race Is On To Convince A Recalcitrant House To Align Behind Paul Ryan

October 21, 2015 12:48 p.m.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) made clear what would need to happen for him to jump into the speaker’s race. But the conservative hardliners that have been roiling their own leadership aren’t about to make it easy for him

“With a lot of the folks in the Freedom Caucus, he’s still up in the air,” Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) — speaking of the group blamed for pushing Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to resign and causing his presumed successor House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to withdraw his candidacy — told TPM.

“Most folks have never been used to someone applying for a job and telling you, ‘I don’t do windows, I don’t do beds,” Salmon said

After being begged by many members to jump in the race, Ryan laid out his conditions Tuesday — a unified party, weekends with his family, and the nixing of procedural maneuvers hardliners often used to threaten coups against the speaker. Coming out of a conference meeting Wednesday morning, some conservatives were rubbed the wrong by some of those demands, as well as the demand-making itself.

“His list of demands were so bold, they pass into almost the unreasonable,” Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) said on CNN Wednesday morning.

Boehner announced Wednesday that caucus elections for speaker will take place Oct. 28 and the full floor vote on Oct. 29. Ryan said he wanted by Friday the endorsement of three influential conference groups across the party’s spectrum: the Freedom Caucus, the more traditionally conservative Republican Study Committee and the pragmatic Tuesday Group. He will have mere days to meet with the groups and round up their support, otherwise the speaker race could be pushed into chaos.

Of most concern to the hardliners is the suggestion that Ryan wanted to get rid of what is know as the motion to vacate the chair.

“It would be a little ironic if the only thing we do is increase the power of the speaker,” Rep. David Brat (R-VA), the Freedom Caucus member who beat former Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) in a primary in 2014, told reporters Wednesday morning.

Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) and others went as far as to call it a “non-starter.”

“If it was good enough for Thomas Jefferson, it’s got to be good enough for Paul Ryan,” Labrador told reporters on the Hill.

Ryan’s spokesperson has since taken to Twitter to clarify that Ryan doesn’t want to eliminate the procedure entirely, but rather tweak the rules surrounding it. Freedom Caucus member Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) was quick to call it a victory.

Also of concern was Ryan’s condition that he salvage time to spend with his family, which includes three small children. Part of a speaker’s typical obligations is traveling over the weekends to fundraise for other members.

“I really want to hear from Paul how much the speaker’s position adversely affects his personal life, and his family commitments, as he has publicly stated,” Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), a Freedom Caucus member, told reporters. “He’s a father, he has young children, he does not have time to do the speaker’s job as it’s been done in the past.”

Brooks also expressed skepticism of Ryan’s more moderate stance on immigration.

“I would hope that Paul Ryan would take a position that would be more consistent with the will of American people and Republican voters,” Brooks said.

Some signaled there is next to nothing Ryan could do to win them over. Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) said he “doubt[s] it very seriously” he would ever go to Ryan’s side.

“We need to do what the American people want. That’s why Donald Trump is doing well. He’s listening to the American people,” Jones said to reporters on the Hill.

The question is whether Ryan will be able to assuage enough of Freedom Caucus members’ qualms to get the four-fifths of their votes for an endorsement by Friday. Ryan wants to avoid a math game over whether he will have the 218 votes required in the floor vote, a number hard to reach with GOP defections, as Boehner and McCarthy learned.

“That’s what we are trying to figure out right now,” Salmon said.

If Ryan is unable to line up the support he’s demanding and opts not to run, then the GOP caucus would be back to square one in finding its savior.

“I can’t believe they would reject Paul Ryan. I think if they do, they totally marginalize themselves,” Rep. Pete King (R-NY) told reporters, adding that Ryan dropping out of the race would leave Republicans “in total disarray.”

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