Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) gave a list of demands Tuesday to a group of people used to dishing them out but seemingly not accustomed to being told what to do.
Conservatives began to revolt Wednesday at the prospect of Ryan as speaker, a position he said Tuesday night he was willing to serve if certain conditions were met.
Among those conditions: Ryan said he believed there needed to be a change to the process to remove a speaker form his post, which House conservatives used as a weapon against outgoing House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). A spokesman for Ryan said he thinks that whoever is speaker, they “cannot be successful with this weapon pointed at them all the time.”
The conditions also included a healthy work-family balance – a must for Ryan, a father of three young children – and the endorsement of every major caucus in the Republican conference.
Those demands came under intense scrutiny Wednesday, and it threw into doubt whether Ryan would, in the end, run for speaker.
Some conservatives brushed aside the notion of the work-family balance. Others, especially the influential hard-line House Freedom Caucus, indicated they weren’t ready to back his bid quite yet.
The most prescient concern for the House Freedom Caucus members: The proposed change to the “motion to vacate the chair,” which allows any member to offer a resolution to oust the speaker. That resolution would only require majority support from the conference to succeed. Conservatives had threatened Boehner with it, and it likely helped expedite his decision to resign from his post.
“I thought if it was good enough for Thomas Jefferson, it was probably good enough for the US House today,” Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kansas), a House Freedom Caucus member, told Roll Call’s Matt Fuller.
Some influential conservative groups and talk-show hosts, meanwhile, signaled they weren’t yet behind Ryan’s potential candidacy. FreedomWorks, one of the groups that claimed victory when heir-apparent House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) unexpectedly pulled his name out of the running for the speaker post.
Conservative radio host Laura Ingraham took jabs at Ryan’s positions on everything from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement to immigration reform, dinging him at “possibly the worst speaker choice”:
EMPEROR RYAN: How many co's wd choose the employee who issued demands abt personal time then said "take it or leave it."
— Laura Ingraham (@IngrahamAngle) October 21, 2015
“I actually am surprised the conservatives did not fold quickly. But I think Ryan made conditions he knew they could not agree to,” Erick Erickson, the editor-in-chief of the conservative site RedState, told Business Insider.
And the influential conservative news site Drudge Report came down hard against Ryan’s demands Tuesday night, running some tough headlines ripping into his potential speakership.
“KING PAUL: PLEDGE YOUR ALLEGIANCE,” its splash banner blared. “OBAMA’S NEW PARTNER.”
Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-South Carolina), another member of the Freedom Caucus, told NBC’s Frank Thorp that the caucus was “sticking with” its endorsement of Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Florida) in his bid for speaker. Moreover, under the caucus’ rules, it would take 80% of Freedom Caucus members to support Ryan for him to receive the Freedom Caucus’ endorsement.
Of course, Ryan could simply decide he doesn’t need the endorsement of all of the conference’s groups. Or the numerous gripes that run against his demands could push him to decide not to run. He emphasized Tuesday night that he is perfectly happy to continue serving as the chair of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.
One thing is clear: If Ryan opts out of running, there’s no current Plan B. When asked about a backup plan on Wednesday if Ryan backed out, Boehner simply shrugged.
“Don’t know,” he said.