Paul Ryan on Tuesday listed the conditions under which he would fill the Speaker of the House vacancy that has Republican lawmakers wailing and rending their garments, reports CNN. As much as anything else, Ryan’s conditions lay plain the distrust and discord among House Republican factions:
Ryan told his colleagues he is willing to take “arrows in the chest but not in the back,” a GOP source inside the meeting told CNN.
Ryan’s most significant condition is support from three relatively important groups inside the House Republican conference: the House Freedom Caucus, the Republican Study Committee, and the Tuesday Group.
The Freedom Caucus is closely associated with the Tea Party movement, and can therefore be counted upon for clear-eyed pragmatism in these chaotic times [snort]. There is some ideological overlap between the Freedom Caucus and the larger Study Committee, which made news in 2013 for ousting Executive Director Paul Teller because of his behind-the-scenes opposition to the Paul Ryan budget plan. The Tuesday Group is considered moderate, and also increasingly irrelevant among their to-the-mattresses colleagues. After all, it was outgoing Speaker John Boehner’s so-called moderate bent that ultimately destroyed his standing with the vocal right flank of House Republicans.
Here’s what I’m getting at: this is going to be messy, going forward. Another of Ryan’s conditions—that changes to House rules be made as a team—presents another potential sticking point with the “smaller, more cohesive, more agile and more active” Freedom Caucus and their hardline Tea Party supporters.
Ryan spoke today about the personal considerations influencing his decision-making process:
“My greatest worry is the consequence of not stepping up, of some day having my own kids ask me, ‘When the stakes were so high, why didn’t you do all you could? Why didn’t you stand and fight for my future when you had the chance?’” Ryan said to reporters.
It’s not hard to see how those are also important political considerations for a man with his eyes still trained on a future White House bid. His potential candidacy is already being couched as a testament to his unique powers of intra-party diplomacy:
If Ryan ultimately feels that he can’t unite the party and passes on the job, Republicans are growing nervous that there is no one else who could.
“It worries me a lot,” Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, told CNN. “Because a leaderless House of Representatives is not something that is conducive to legislative successes — and it diminishes us even more in the esteem of the American people.”
If Ryan’s conditions are met, he will run for Speaker of the House, but then, if his conditions are met, his selection will be a foregone conclusion. CNN’s report says members of the Freedom Caucus still might take some convincing to back away from their man, Daniel Webster of Florida. Ryan wants this thing in the bag before he takes the plunge, but that’s not an easy get.
As Raul Labrador of Idaho said, “If anybody thinks we are just going to get behind somebody just because they have a national name, they are sadly mistaken.”