The Slatest

Paul Ryan Says He’s Willing to Be Speaker, but Wants Republicans to Want Him  

Paul Ryan.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan publicly inched slightly closer on Tuesday to putting himself forward as a candidate for the Republicans’ soon-to-be vacant Speaker of the House post. After rebuffing earlier calls for him to enter the race, the former vice presidential candidate said for the first time Tuesday to a Republican Conference meeting he would be willing to serve as speaker—if his colleagues in the House unanimously rallied behind him. In other words, there are conditions. There is also a deadline. If the House Republicans haven’t backed him by Friday, Ryan says he’s “happy” to head back to Ways and Means.

That, of course, is not exactly the same thing as saying you’re all in, but in the leadership void that is the post-Boehner world, Ryan appears to be holding most of the cards as his party tries to regroup after Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy ended his bid for the top spot earlier this month. “If Paul Ryan can’t unite us, no one can. Who else is out there?” Republican Rep. Peter King of New York, a moderate, told the Washington Post. Ryan has indicated he’s wary of trying to go it alone in uniting the fractious party for fear of getting torpedoed by his party’s most conservative elements and wants a show of support from the conservative House Freedom Caucus and the Republican Study Committee. Here’s more on Ryan’s conditions from Politico:

Ryan also wants Republicans to alter the procedure for “vacating the chair,” which is essentially a referendum to remove the speaker from office. Conservatives threatened to force such a vote against Boehner earlier this summer, and Ryan believes it’s destructive. The Wisconsin Republican is calling on the next speaker to be more visionary. He agreed with House Freedom Caucus members and a large bloc of the GOP in supporting changes to rules and procedures to empower rank-and-file members. But he said those decisions must be made together.

“I’m willing to take arrows in the chest but not in the back,” Ryan said at Tuesday’s meeting several Republicans told the Post. “’I don’t want to be the third log on the bonfire,’ Ryan said, in a reference to Boehner and McCarthy, according to Republicans who were inside the private meeting.”

“There is fear among many Republicans that the same dynamics that brought Mr. Boehner’s leadership to an early end will spell trouble for Mr. Ryan, too, as he faces down a series of difficult fiscal challenges heading into an election year,” the New York Times notes. “The most conservative group of members have been cool to the idea of his candidacy, and Mr. Ryan had not been willing to yield to their demands that the next speaker change House rules extensively to empower a minority of members.”

“[Ryan] is expected to continue meeting Wednesday with House Republicans to explore his reluctant candidacy for speaker, evaluating whether the groundswell of enthusiasm that has greeted him in recent weeks can be sustained over the long haul,” according to the Post.