Ryan closing in on Speakership

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Two key GOP groups threw their support behind Rep. Paul Ryan on Thursday, making it almost certain the Wisconsin Republican will be elected next week as the 54th Speaker of the House.

The 170-member conservative Republican Study Committee and the 55-member centrist Tuesday Group formally said they were endorsing Ryan for Speaker following separate meetings with him Wednesday and Thursday.

{mosads}“Yes, he’s seeking the Speakership and he feels very confident he can unite our conference,” said Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), who heard from Ryan at the Tuesday Group meeting.

Asked if it was “inevitable” Ryan would be the next Speaker, Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.) told The Hill: “I would think so.”

The pair of endorsements came a day after Ryan cleared his toughest hurdle in his bid for Speaker. After huddling with the Freedom Caucus for more than an hour Wednesday, the band of roughly 40 hard-line conservatives said a “super-majority” of its members would support Ryan.

Ryan, the current Ways and Means Committee chairman and his party’s 2012 vice presidential nominee, had said earlier in the week he would only run for the post if he could win the endorsement of the three major GOP caucuses.

But the strong support from the Freedom group — about 70 percent of its members — was enough to convince Ryan to press on with his candidacy.

After meeting for an hour with the Tuesday Group, Ryan repeatedly declined to comment to reporters as he walked between the Rayburn and Longworth House buildings. He then bounded three flights of stairs, passing the circus-like Benghazi hearing where Hillary Clinton is testifying on the way up.

Ryan told the Tuesday Group that he believed he could unite the fractured GOP conference and advance a legislative agenda that Republicans can rally around, Curbelo said.

Ryan also has been telling his GOP colleagues he’s open to changing some internal rules and procedures that conservatives have been clamoring for. Sources who attended Ryan’s meeting with the Freedom group Wednesday night said he expressed support for tweaking the Steering Committee, which picks committee chairmen and slots, as well as exploring other ways to “spread power around the conference more.”

Addressing concerns about his past support for immigration, Ryan pledged to the Freedom group no immigration reform bill would be taken up during President Obama’s final year in office, sources said. He also vowed that no immigration bill would get a floor vote in a future administration unless it met the so-called Hastert rule and secured support from a majority of the majority.

Those comments by Ryan were a big part of the reason why two-thirds of Freedom Caucus members dropped their support for Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.) and gave it to Ryan. Webster, the former Speaker of the Florida state House, is refusing to quit the race, even as his supporters are conceding it’s a “foregone conclusion” Ryan will be elected.

There was no real question about whether Ryan could win backing from the Tuesday Group and the RSC, the latter of which Ryan is a member. RSC Chairman Bill Flores (R-Texas), who himself had been mulling a Speaker bid if Ryan passed, said he had worked closely with Ryan on the Budget Committee when the nine-term Wisconsin congressman was chairman.

“After hearing Paul lay out his vision for the future of the Republican conference, I am confident that he is the right person to lead the House going forward,” Flores said. “He has the policy expertise, conservative principles and strong values we need in our next Speaker.”

Outgoing Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has said Republicans will hold an internal election to nominate his successor next Wednesday; he’s set a formal floor vote for the following day.

Last month, the Freedom Caucus forced Boehner to take an early retirement in the middle of his third term as Speaker. It then pressured Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to drop out of the race to succeed him. Boehner has said he plans to resign on Oct. 30. 

Tags Carlos Curbelo John Boehner Kevin McCarthy Patrick Meehan Paul Ryan
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