GOP to elect Speaker next week; conservatives skeptical of Ryan

GOP to elect Speaker next week; conservatives skeptical of Ryan

By Scott Wong and Mike Lillis – 10/21/15 09:38 AM EDT

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is getting a cool reception from House conservatives, whom he said must endorse him before he’ll agree to run for Speaker.

Leaders of the House Freedom Caucus and their conservative allies said Wednesday they’re turned off by the list of conditions Ryan said must be met before he launches a bid for the top post.

In addition to backing from three major GOP caucuses, Ryan wants assurances he could cut back on fundraising trips so he can spend more time with his family and promises that conservatives won’t try to oust him from power.

“It’s like interviewing a maid for a job and she says, ‘I don’t clean windows, I don’t do floors, I don’t do beds, these are the hours I’ll work.’ It’s rubbing a lot of people the wrong way,” Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.), a co-founder of the Freedom Caucus, told The Hill.

Ryan, the chairman of the powerful tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, is expected to meet Wednesday afternoon with both the Freedom Caucus and the 170-member Republican Study Committee. He’s also expected to meet with the centrist Tuesday Group.

Republicans will hold an internal election to nominate a new Speaker on Oct. 28, two days before Speaker John Boehner plans to resign from Congress, the Ohio Republican told GOP lawmakers in a closed-door meeting Wednesday. If the conference picks a nominee, a formal floor vote will take place Oct. 29.

Rep. Daniel Webster, who was the first GOP Speaker of the Florida state House, is the only other declared candidate for Speaker. Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) dropped out of the race and endorsed Ryan after he announced his bid Tuesday night.

But if Ryan’s demands aren’t met by Friday and he drops out, it could set up a free-for-all for the job and throw the 247-member GOP conference back into turmoil.

Asked if there’s a Plan B if Ryan doesn’t run, Boehner paused before replying: “Don’t know.” But he expressed confidence that Ryan could secure endorsements from each of the major GOP factions.

“He has a good relationship, I think, with all the wings of the party,” Boehner told reporters Wednesday.

Winning an endorsement from the Freedom Caucus will be a high hurdle for Ryan. The bloc of roughly 40 conservative hard-liners already has thrown its support behind Webster. For the group to switch allegiances, Ryan will need to win backing from four-fifths — or 80 percent — of Freedom Caucus members, according to internal rules.

Yet, some Freedom members are keeping an open mind and are waiting to hear directly from Ryan on Wednesday afternoon.

Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kansas), a vocal leadership critic who chairs the Tea Party Caucus, said one red flag is Ryan’s warning he won’t sacrifice time away from his young family for lengthy fundraising tours.

“I don’t think the Speakership is a 9 to 5 job,” said Huelskamp, a Freedom Caucus member.

“You’ve got to work on weekends. John Boehner worked very hard … and I’m very concerned if you’re not going to work weekends in this job, which is primarily fundraising, then that could hurt the Republican majority.”

Conservatives also don’t want to lose any of their power to challenge the Speakership, Huelskamp warned — a shot at Ryan’s call for rule changes that “ensure we don’t experience constant leadership challenges and crisis.”

“I don’t think we should change that,” Huelskamp said, referring to the power of individual members to call a vote on vacating the Speakership. “And visiting with conservative members this morning I think they generally agree.”

After Wednesday’s meeting, a number of conservatives who are not members of the Freedom Caucus signaled they would not back Ryan.

Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-Texas) said he’s still supporting Webster. Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) said he’s leaning strongly against supporting Ryan.

“It seems like to me that he apparently is the choice of John Boehner, [and] that’s not what the people of America want.” Asked if he can be convinced to come around to Ryan, Jones said, “I doubt it very seriously.”

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) said of Ryan’s conditions: “I think that might have been a polite way of saying, ‘I don’t want the job.’ ”

Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), another co-founder of the Freedom group, said it’s possible that Ryan can lay out a vision that allows members to get behind him.

“It’s fair to say that a number of people are open to him, yes, but it’s with some reservations,” Labrador said.

Labrador acknowledged that no member of the Freedom Caucus is a viable alternative to Ryan, but he insisted that was never the goal.

“This has never been about electing a member of the Freedom Caucus, we know we can’t get one of our members elected. But I think it’s pretty presumptuous to think that Paul Ryan is the only person who can win this.”

He mentioned Webster and Rep. Rob Bishop, the former speaker of the Utah state House, as good candidates.

– Cristina Marcos contributed. This story was updated at 12:28 p.m.

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