The Freedom Caucus is not impressed. Nor are conservatives. While establishment Republicans rallied Wednesday around Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan’s list of five demands under which he would be willing to serve as Speaker of the House, the party’s right wing was decidedly unhappy.
“King Paul: Pledge You Allegiance; Dem Favorite; Obama’s New Partner” blared a Drudge Report banner.
“Red Alert: Paul Ryan Arrogantly Demands An End To Constitutional Government,” read a ConservativeHQ.com blast.
The Tea Party Patriots put out a whole video about why Ryan, the chair of the House Ways & Means Committee, is the wrong choice. “The Constitution states that the House of Reps will choose their Speaker. @PRyan is not the guy. #ChooseWisely!” the group tweeted.
But perhaps the most important reaction was that of the Freedom Caucus, the group of roughly 40 members that brought down Speaker John Boehner with a threatened no-confidence vote and stymied his would-be heir Kevin McCarthy by endorsing a longshot candidate. Ryan said he would only step up if he has the backing of all the various House GOP groups, including the Freedom Caucus.
The caucus’ own rules dictate that 80% of the group must sign on to an endorsement before it acts. But already Rep. Raul Labrador told Roll Call that he doesn’t see one-fifth of the Caucus endorsing Ryan, let alone the requisite four-fifths. And Rep. Jim Jordan, the group’s leader, said Wednesday morning that it has no plans to change the rules for Ryan. Thus far the caucus is maintaining its endorsement of Rep. Daniel Webster, a third-term Florida Republican who said Wednesday he’ll remain in the race.
Leaving the meeting, members expressed concerns about Ryan’s previous support for immigration reform and his demand that they give up the motion to vacate—essentially the no-confidence vote that put Boehner in such a bind. In a meeting Tuesday night, Ryan told House GOP members that eliminating this cudgel was one of his conditions for taking the job. “I am willing to take arrows in the chest, but not in the back,” he said, according to a member who was in the room.
Meanwhile, the establishment quickly solidified around Ryan. Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz withdrew his name from contention and endorsed Ryan. Boehner announced that the conference will now vote next Wednesday, Oct. 28, followed by a full floor vote the next day. “I think Paul is going to get the support that he’s looking for,” Boehner told reporters Wednesday morning. “I feel pretty good about it.” Boehner may be feeling good about it, but until Ryan shores up the Freedom Caucus, it’s looking unlikely he’ll be speaker, as one of his conditions is he’ll only run if he has the support of everyone, including the Freedom Caucus.
The full weight of the GOP is now raining down on the Freedom Caucus, though establishment ire has made little difference to its members in the past, even during the government shut down and Boehner’s abdication. Indeed, the conservatives seem to revel in disrupting—in the Silicon Valley sense—what they call broken government. If Ryan steps out of the race, the field will be wide open.
“This could be a long process,” warned Rep. Tim Huelskamp, a Kansas Republican and Freedom Caucus member. Boehner, who has pledged to remain until a new Speaker is elected, might still have a few more weeks—or months—in office.
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