Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan gained support from a key group Wednesday night for House speaker when a supermajority of the House Freedom Caucus announced it was backing him.
In a statement, the group said Ryan “has promised to be an ideas-focused Speaker who will advance limited government principles and devolve power to the membership.”
While the group held off an official endorsement of Ryan, the announcement of support could get him to officially enter the race for House speaker, and lock down the votes to win in elections next week.
Ryan said in a statement Wednesday night the move by the Freedom Caucus “is a positive step toward a unified Republican team.”
Ryan had met behind closed doors with members earlier in the day. When he left the meeting, he told reporters, “Nice meeting. We had a good chat.”
Support from the caucus was not certain, since they’ve repeatedly opposed GOP leaders and pushed House Speaker John Boehner to announce his resignation. Before Ryan entered the mix, the caucus previously had endorsed Rep. Daniel Webster of Florida, who said late Wednesday he was still in the running.
On Tuesday, Ryan let his Republican colleagues know that if he’s to become the next House speaker, he’ll do so on his own terms — or not at all.
After initially turning down the job, the Wisconsin congressman outlined a set of significant demands that would need to be met in order for him to run:
- He wants broad support across the Republican conference, specifically the endorsement of all the major caucuses.
- He wants House rules changed to overhaul what is known as the “motion to vacate the chair” — a parliamentary weapon members can use to try and oust a speaker.
- He wants to be able to spend time with his family, and not be on the road as much as previous speakers.
Ryan, outlining these conditions, then gave colleagues until Friday to express their views. And he made clear that if he doesn’t get what he wants, he’d be “happy” to stay where he is, as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.
The statement put out by the House Freedom Caucus Wednesday night does not technically count as an endorsement, since members fell short of the 80 percent requirement for one. However, about two-thirds of the caucus members did come out in favor of Ryan, leading to the Wednesday night statement.
Boehner told the House Republican Conference on Wednesday that they will vote internally for speaker on Oct. 28, followed by a full floor vote on Oct. 29.
In total, Ryan or any candidate would need roughly 218 votes to win the speakership.
On Tuesday, Ryan said, “My greatest worry is the consequence of not stepping up.”
He said the country is in “desperate need for leadership.”
At the same time, he made clear he could back out.
“What I told the members is if you can agree to the requests, and if I can be a truly unifying figure, I’ll serve,” Ryan said. “And if I’m not a unifying force, that will be fine as well. I’m happy to stay where I am.”
While his conditions may be steep, multiple sources told Fox News that GOP leaders and others pushed Ryan so hard that he felt he had to at least get to this point, and outline the conditions for a run.
Those same sources also say Ryan has engineered a way out if necessary, by making significant demands that are hard to meet. If Ryan ultimately does not enter the race, it’s unclear who might step up to run for the job — and more importantly, who would be able to muster 218 votes.