Paul D. Ryan was endorsed Thursday by the center-right Tuesday Group and conservative Republican Study Committee, paving the way for a run for speaker.
The two groups announced their support for the Wisconsin Republican Thursday afternoon, following Wednesday’s evening vote in the House Freedom Caucus, in which a “supermajority” of the caucus voted to support his nomination and on the House floor. RSC Chairman Bill Flores, R-Texas, who had said previously he would run for speaker if Ryan didn’t, said in a statement that Ryan was “the right person to lead the House going forward.”
“He has the policy expertise, conservative principles and strong values we need in our next Speaker,” Flores added.
The RSC needed a day to finalize its decision after meeting with Ryan Wednesday, but the Tuesday Group finished a relatively short session with Ryan Thursday morning and were immediately prepared to back him.
“There was very strong, overwhelming support” from the 55 members of the group, one of the co-chairmen, Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., told reporters as he left the meeting in the basement of the Rayburn House Office Building.
“Paul knows we want to expand the governance wing of the party,” Dent continued, “and we made that pretty clear to him.”
Incidentally, there are several crossover members between the RSC and the Tuesday Group.
The only possible problem Ryan might have had with Tuesday Group members was if he could not guarantee he would not be bullied or stymied by the HFC and other hardline conservatives, who want speaker candidates to make specific promises about how they would govern.
Tuesday Group members might have been circumspect Thursday morning after learning Ryan had secured a “supermajority” of support — but not an official endorsement — from the HFC. What might Ryan have promised the most intransigent faction of the GOP Conference in return for their votes?
Echoing Dent, Tuesday Group members suggested Ryan saw eye-to-eye with them on the big issues.
“I think he put us at ease in the meeting,” said Tuesday Group member Mike Coffman, R-Colo. “He went over some of the issues that the Freedom Caucus brought forward and in terms of what he’s accepted … the issues he agrees with them on, I think, are issues we certainly can support.”
Coffman said Ryan was willing to take steps to decentralize elected leadership’s power over panel assignments by opening the Republican Steering Committee to more members, as well as by restoring more authority to committee chairmen in negotiating major pieces of legislation and return to “regular order.” These are all major sticking points for the HFC and even more establishment Republicans concede these suggestions make sense.
Ryan has not, however, given in to HFC demands that he not proceed with his intent to revise to the rule governing the “motion to vacate the chair.” Currently, those rules would allow any member to force a vote on the House floor to strip a speaker of his or her gavel. That might have been a red flag for the Tuesday Group and other House Republicans.
“He’s made no concessions to anyone,” said Tuesday Group member Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., “and that includes the Tuesday Group.”
Ryan, the current Ways and Means chairman and 2012 vice presidential nominee, said earlier this week he would announce by Friday whether he would proceed with a run to replace Speaker John A. Boehner, who plans to retire at the end of the month.
Before making a final decision, Ryan said he had to determine whether he had a mandate to lead from the three most influential wings of the Republican Conference: the HFC, Tuesday Group and the RSC.
His greatest challenge — winning over the majority of members in the HFC — was surmounted Wednesday night. With that, the Tuesday Group and RSC backing now under his belt, all Ryan has left to do now is finish weighing his options and make his candidacy official.
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