Paul Ryan seems to have put the first real chink in the Tea Party’s armor, but he’s still falling short of his own self-determined demands to become Speaker of the House.
The Tea Party wing of the House, aka the self-described Freedom Caucus, aka the epicenter of the GOP’s raging dumpster fire, met late Wednesday evening in a sparse room on the Capitol complex.
They left in tatters, with members of the fringe group confused on what they even decided or where the battle goes from here.
“I don’t know how [Paul Ryan’s] going to react to what we did, because it isn’t exactly what he said, so then if that changes what he says later that then can change what my thought process is,” said Rep. Morgan Griffith (Va.) after the meeting in which he backed Ryan.
Head spinning? Yeah. Mine too. Here’s the rundown.
The majority of House hardliners said Wednesday they would vote to support Ryan’s Speaker bid—70 percent of them—but that falls short of the group’s rule that 80 percent is needed for an actual endorsement.
The bylaws of the 40-or-so-member Freedom Caucus state that only if 80 percent of the group agrees on something will they take a formal position on the issue.
The group has only done it three times. They signed off on trying to derail the president's trade deal (in which they were overruled), opposing the extension of the Export Import Bank (which remains expired because of their opposition), and supporting Daniel Webster for Speaker (an endorsement that still stands).
Ryan has made it clear to the GOP that he doesn’t want to be Speaker, though after enough Republicans in and outside of Congress convinced him he was literally their only hope, he caved. Still, he demanded the full party be on board before he would take the top job on Capitol Hill.
Now it seems like Ryan and the Freedom Caucus are both giving a little or, to harken back to a pre-2010 word, compromising. Some members of the group reported Ryan promised not to bring up a comprehensive immigration reform bill unless the majority of Republicans in the House support it (which isn’t going to happen).
After Wednesday evening's drama, Ryan’s office announced he’s officially in the race for Speaker, yet what, if anything, that means in comparison to outgoing Speaker John Boehner’s time in office is to be determined. The election is on Oct. 28, meaning, given the rate of members changing their minds, this fragile truce could still fall apart.
For example, on Wednesday afternoon, members of the Freedom Caucus said a precondition of an endorsement is that Ryan promise to not set up more barriers for hardliners to oust a sitting Speaker, called vacating the chair.
“That’s a non-starter,” Rep. Raul Labrador (Idaho) told reporters.
By the evening his tune had changed.
“The precondition is one issue. The support [of Ryan] is a separate issue. So the vote had nothing to do with – the number of people who voted for him had nothing to do with the preconditions,” Labrador said.
Yes, you read that right. They are planning to support him even though they aren’t going to agree to Ryan’s conditions—which included the rule changes and less fundraising obligations so the 45-year-old father can spend weekends off with his three little tykes.
Other members of the Freedom Caucus report Ryan has finally agreed to let the majority of House Republicans rule the House and they’re spiking their own football.
“The questions we raised are still valid. Still questions and concerns,” Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas said. “That’s the first time I’ve heard Paul Ryan express much of any concerns about how leadership ran this place for 4½ years when he was Budget chairman and Ways and Means chairman.”
Rep. Justin Amash, a usually outspoken member from Michigan, who wouldn’t even tell reporters if he supported Ryan or not, said, “I think it’s up to Chairman Ryan to determine how he proceeds.”
He added, “I think that’s a high number and it’s sufficient for him to become the next Speaker, in my opinion.”
They look to be heeding the warning of moderates.
“The Freedom Caucus will totally marginalize themselves, isolate themselves and show they’re out of touch with reality and it will be disastrous for the Republican Party and the country,” Rep. Peter King (N.Y.) argued. “If it’s not Paul Ryan, I think it’s a disaster.”
Still, some Freedom Caucus members said they respect and like Paul Ryan, personally. But political war is rarely personal, though it’s often bloody.
“It’s not about the person. It’s about the way the office conducts its business,” said Rep. Paul Gosar (Ariz.) who is still supporting Webster’s longshot Speaker bid. “I’m not here to make the leadership more powerful. I’m here to make sure that the balance of our elected position as the House is maintained and kept in place.”