Desperate Republican Appeals to Ryan to Run for Speaker – Alaska Dispatch News
WASHINGTON — Mitt Romney called him. Speaker John A. Boehner pleaded with him. Rep. Fred Upton said: “He needs to do this for the team, that’s what we are all telling him.”
It is a case in which, one of his colleagues said, “the job is seeking the man.”
The courtship of Rep. Paul D. Ryan to be speaker of the House escalated on multiple fronts Friday. Ryan, the powerful chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, signaled that he was headed home to Wisconsin to reconsider his repeatedly stated position that he does not want the job.
Even that thin reed of possibility seemed to only further fuel the ardor of Republicans, many of whom emerged from a conference meeting Friday morning saying they saw no one else with the potential to bring the fractured party back together.
“I just think he’s the complete package and the natural consensus player,” said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla.
“This is a guy — it’s very unusual for a House member: He has genuine national stature,” Cole added. “He has been a thought leader in the Republican Party; he is a consistent conservative.”
With House Republicans in turmoil and party leaders fearing that the disarray could spill into the 2016 presidential and congressional campaigns, the push for Ryan to run for speaker was taking on more urgency.
But despite the many entreaties, the House adjourned for a weeklong recess Friday, and Ryan left his suitors wanting, returning to his family and advisers in Janesville, Wisconsin, to discuss his future, and, he said, to watch the Green Bay Packers game Sunday.
The biggest influence on his decision is expected to come from his wife, Janna, who worked as a lawyer and lobbyist in Washington before moving to her husband’s hometown to raise their children, who are in school there.
Party elders, conservative leaders and Republican colleagues have been pressuring Ryan, 45, who was Romney’s vice presidential running mate in 2012, saying he should run for the good of the country, to rescue the institution of Congress and to protect the political interests of Republicans overall.
“There’s really only one choice: Paul Ryan is the guy to bring us together,” said Upton, R-Mich., chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee and a friend of Ryan’s, who said he had corralled him on the House floor.
Romney, in a statement, appealed to Ryan’s sense of duty. “I wouldn’t presume to tell Paul what to do, but I do know that he is a man of ideas who is driven to see them applied for the public good,” Romney said. “Every politician tries to convince people that they are that kind of leader; almost none are — Paul is.”
But even as Ryan was said to be reconsidering, his close associates cautioned that he had no intention of fighting for the job and would most likely accept it only by acclimation — including the support of the hard-line conservatives who pressed to oust Boehner and helped drive the majority leader, Kevin McCarthy of California, out of the speaker’s race Thursday.
“If the conference decides as a whole that they want him to do it, it is possible,” said a Republican official close to Ryan who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak publicly. “If there are still those guys who are holding out trying to make a point, it is not going to happen.”
While many hard-liners spoke admiringly of Ryan, they were also adamant that they would not simply jump to support handing him the speaker’s gavel. Many of them viewed Boehner’s resignation and McCarthy’s departure from the race as victories, and they have pledged to continue pressing for major changes in House rules to empower the rank-and-file members and weaken the leadership, including the speaker.
Asked if he would support Ryan, Rep. John Fleming, R-La., a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said: “I would want to see the full cast of candidates.”
Fleming noted that the Freedom Caucus, which has about 40 members, previously announced its support for Rep. Daniel Webster, a little-known lawmaker from Florida, and would stick with him until other candidates emerged and could be interviewed by the group.
“Remember, for us much of it has to do with the process and empowering individual members and the constituents that sent us here,” Fleming said. “So it’s not always about the personality.”
Demands for procedural changes notwithstanding, Republicans are confronting a serious leadership crisis, and Ryan has sufficient respect that the hard-liners may feel intense pressure to get behind him.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, who is also running for speaker, said Friday that he would gladly yield to Ryan, calling him “the most qualified person to do it.”
Chaffetz added: “The reason I got into the race was people like Paul Ryan were not stepping up to do it.”
Indeed, Ryan had been so adamant about not wanting the speaker’s job that he issued a statement declaring he would not seek the position before many Republicans had even left the room where McCarthy made his announcement.
Along with Eric Cantor of Virginia, the former majority leader, McCarthy and Ryan were depicted as the young faces of the Republican Party during the election cycle of 2010, when it won back the House majority. They also wrote a book together called “Young Guns.”
In the conference meeting Friday morning, Boehner, who had been hounded by the far-right flank of his party for nearly his entire time as speaker, reassured rank-and-file lawmakers that he would remain until a new speaker was chosen.
That suggested he could stay as speaker and in Congress beyond his previously announced retirement date at the end of October, though Boehner said he believed a new speaker could be chosen before then, and he was among those trying to convince Ryan to run.
The hard-right lawmakers who pushed for Boehner’s ouster have made a long list of demands for changes to how the House operates, including major adjustments to the composition of a committee that decides other committee chairmanships and alterations to the way legislation and amendments can be brought to the floor. Those demands, as well as others regarding various leadership posts, appeared to contribute to McCarthy’s decision to withdraw, even though he had been the heavy favorite to succeed Boehner.
Some conservatives rejected the idea that Ryan — or anyone — could instantly unify House Republicans.
“I frankly think there is no silver bullet candidate that is going to bring us together, either,” said Rep. Luke Messer of Indiana. “It’s going to take a combination of things.”
Other lawmakers said Ryan was the ideal choice.
“He’s the consensus candidate at this point,” said Rep. Darrell Issa of California.
Cole said he believed Ryan truly did not want the position.
“He clearly doesn’t want the job; I can’t blame him for that,” Cole said. “But honestly this is a case where the job is seeking the man, and we need him.”