How Ryan conquered the Freedom Caucus

Politico – by Jake Sherman and Lauren French

The House Freedom Caucus nixed John Boehner and rejected Kevin McCarthy. But by all accounts, its meeting with Paul Ryan — a confab key to determining the next speaker of the House — had gone pretty well.

At the end of the day, the veteran Wisconsin Republican and rules-obsessed Freedom Caucus members weren’t so far apart. In fact, Ryan agreed with much of what they were saying. In principle, anyway.  

Restructure the powerful House Republican Steering Committee so it better represents the membership? Broadly speaking, it made sense, Ryan told the two-dozen members gathered in his Capitol office suite — and it could happen quite quickly. He never loved the makeup of the panel, anyway.

Ryan, who has headed two committees, also liked their idea of empowering chairmen. He said he would not advance contentious bills without support from a majority of the majority of the House Republican Conference — adhering to the much-talked-about Hastert rule. Ryan said he wouldn’t pursue immigration reform while Obama is in office, and vowed that any immigration-related legislation would have to adhere to the Hastert rule.

Discuss sweeping changes to the House rules? Change the way committee chairs are elected? There are a lot of good ideas, Ryan said, and they all merit a broader conversation with all Republicans. Ryan made it clear that groups like the Freedom Caucus would have a place at the table in Ryan’s speakership; they would have buy-in. The Freedom Caucus was even inclined to support Ryan’s push to overhaul the “motion to vacate,” a rarely invoked procedural mechanism that one of its members used to begin to push John Boehner out of the speakership.

At the same time, Ryan’s message was simple: Take it or leave it. He wouldn’t negotiate the specifics of any of these reforms in the context of a leadership election. But he was sending signals that he was willing to do things differently.

Sitting at his conference table without a jacket on, Ryan made it plain: If you don’t want me as speaker, I won’t run.

The conservative lawmakers applauded at the end of the meeting. Ryan seemed to feel good.

Hours later, as the Freedom Caucus retreated to the Cannon House Office Building to decide on an endorsement, Ryan gathered with close advisers and allies in his hideaway. There was House Majority Leader McCarthy sitting next to veteran Wisconsin Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner. Boehner’s chief of staff stood nearby. Aides shuffled in and out. Some attendees drained Miller Lites. Ryan was comfortable with where he was.

But across the street from Ryan’s confab, in Room 411 in the Cannon House Office Building, a protest was bubbling. Ryan was being too vague, some Freedom Caucus said. He needed to commit more firmly to the House rules.

The Freedom Caucus wasn’t going to get there. They couldn’t endorse Ryan.

After three ballots around a long table, the group, led by Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, did not reach the 80 percent of members needed to deliver Ryan the endorsement he said he needed to run. One source said there were nine “no” votes, another said 11. Either way, from 27 to 29 members of the Freedom Caucus were firmly behind Ryan — about 70 percent. An official statement said “a supermajority of the House Freedom Caucus has voted to support” Ryan.

For Ryan, that was good enough. Around 9 p.m., he decided he would continue his quest to become the first speaker from his native Wisconsin. In continuing his campaign, Ryan abandoned his vow that he needed the endorsement of the three major GOP blocks in order to pursue a bid.

In reality, though, the Freedom Caucus was the outlier.

“We designed the 80 percent rule to be difficult to achieve,” said Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), a leader of the Freedom Caucus. “It’s not a monolithic group in there. It’s very difficult for 80 percent of us to do anything. We’ve only done it three times.”

Ryan had all the other support he needed, anyway. The Republican Study Committee met with him Wednesday morning, and roughly 70 percent of its member were supportive of his bid, according to multiple sources within the group. The Tuesday Group was so sure it would endorse him that its members scheduled its meeting for Thursday morning, one day after the Freedom Caucus met, in order to avoid tarring Ryan with its moderate stamp before the Freedom Caucus cast its ballots.

The 24-hour whirlwind was an impressive political feat for Ryan. He didn’t engage in the exhaustive campaigning that’s usually required of a bid for leadership — no whipping or trying to pick off a vote here or there.

He simply talked, and people followed.

Of course, things won’t always be that easy. In the next few days, Congress will have to lift the debt limit. That process will begin Friday, when the House will try to pass an RSC-written plan to raise the nation’s borrowing limit with a host of other policy provisions tacked onto it. That plan will not pass the Senate, and Boehner will likely be required to move a so-called clean debt limit bill during the final days of his speakership late next week.

On Oct. 28, the Republican Conference will meet behind closed doors and it is all but certain to nominate Ryan for speaker. The next day, unless something goes horribly wrong, Ryan will ascend to a position he said he never wanted. Ryan will be one spot away from the vice presidency, a post he unsuccessfully ran for three years ago, and two steps away from the presidency, a job Ryan has long toyed with seeking.

Those seem to be ambitions of the past. Ryan has told friends that the speakership will probably be the last job in politics he will ever hold.

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9 thoughts on “How Ryan conquered the Freedom Caucus

  1. Blah blah blah blah blah blah. …the only motion to vacate that is acceptable or even worth considering is if they (d,r,i,l,tp or whoever is making lip service while the Republic burns) vacate our offices and the invading wetbacks vacate this Nation immediately and cease with their time wasting tactics that provide false hopes of using their intentionally corrupted system to make changes.

    Hang ALL the sob’s on their way out the door.

      1. Thank you, Katie. They’re beyond insufferable at this point with their theatrics. It’s like they’re waiting for applause after every skit now?! Truly maddening, frustrating and infuriating.

    1. Agreed. Hang all the treasonous s***heads. Who cares anything about politics in the jewnited states of jewmerica? We all know about the two party fraud, and the REAL party: the zionist party.

  2. Paul Ryan, asshole extraordinaire, is now the Washington Whore Press Corp’s new “pretty boy” and they’ll slather his ugly mug and widow’s peak to new heights, far stretching the myth of self-governance. It don’t matter if you vote, when you vote, or, if you vote at all,, your still gonna have Eddie Munster as Speaker of the House.

  3. “Ryan has told friends that the speakership will probably be the last job in politics he will ever hold.”

    I suspect he’s right.

    Hanging has a peculiar way of ending careers.

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