The hardline House Freedom Caucus said Wednesday that it is supporting Rep. Paul Ryan for speaker of the House, all but guaranteeing he’ll get the job.
The group of around three dozen rebellious conservatives, who have caused fits for the GOP leadership, stressed that their support for Ryan was not an official endorsement because it couldn’t muster the 80% agreement such an announcement would require.
“A supermajority of the House Freedom Caucus has voted to support Paul Ryan’s bid to become the next Speaker of the House,” the group said in a statement. “Paul is a policy entrepreneur who has developed conservative reforms dealing with a wide variety of subjects, and he has promised to be an ideas-focused Speaker who will advance limited government principles and devolve power to the membership.”
In a statement, Ryan said even though it did not serve as an official endorsement, the caucus’ support was a “positive step forward.”
“I’m grateful for the support of a supermajority of the House Freedom Caucus,” Ryan said. “I look forward to hearing from the other two caucuses by the end of the week, but I believe this is a positive step toward a unified Republican team.”
Support from the group was not certain, since they’ve repeatedly opposed GOP leaders and pushed the current speaker, John Boehner, to announce his resignation.
Several members of the group had raised concerns about Ryan, and the discord spread to the influential talk-radio wing of the conservative orbit. But after meeting behind closed doors Wednesday night, the lawmakers emerged to say they would support him.
The Wisconsin congressman, a reluctant candidate for the post, was asked to run by mainstream party leaders seeking to resolve a crisis set in motion when compromise-averse conservatives pushed Boehner to resign and then pressured his likely successor into withdrawing.
The same intraparty divide is roiling the Republicans’ presidential campaign, with outsiders led by Donald Trump dominating the field for months.
On Wednesday, some House members took issue with Ryan’s suggested changes to congressional rules and even his desire to balance family life with the demands of the job.
“No other speaker candidate came in and said here’s the list of my demands, either meet those or I’m not going to do this,” Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, a member of the hardline caucus, complained the day after Ryan outlined the conditions for his candidacy. “Speaker’s a big job. And it’s not a 9-to-5 job. So there are a lot of questions to be answered.”
Ryan began making the rounds to the three major House caucuses whose endorsements he is seeking as a condition for running for speaker. It’s a job the 45-year-old never wanted but is exploring, he says, out of a sense of duty after Boehner announced his resignation and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy abruptly withdrew from the running to replace him.
Ryan has made clear that he does not want to be the latest victim of Republican dysfunction and will run only if it becomes clear he can unify the House GOP.
“I won’t be the third log on the bonfire,” he said.
Boehner, who hopes to leave Congress at the end of this month, sought to move the process forward, scheduling secret-ballot House GOP elections for Oct. 28, to be followed by a floor vote in the full House the next day.