Ryan tells GOP he’ll run for Speaker — with conditions

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told the House GOP conference Tuesday night that he will run for Speaker if every caucus endorses him, according to lawmakers in the room.

Ryan made the pledge during a presentation behind closed doors in which he outlined how he could be convinced to run for the lower chamber’s top job.

He also gave House Republicans until Friday to rally around him.

According to a source in the room, Ryan told his colleagues, “I know this sounds conditional, because it is.”

After the meeting Ryan told reporters the while the Speakership has never been a job he wanted, he wouldn’t turn his back on his party’s leadership.

“It’s not a job I’ve ever wanted [or] I’ve ever sought,” Ryan said. “I’m in the job I’ve always wanted here in the Congress. I came to the conclusion that this is a very dire moment, not just for Congress, not just for the Republican Party, but for our country. And I think our country is in desperate need of leadership.”

A spokesman for Ryan immediately after the meeting said Ryan will only run if his colleagues accept him as a “unity candidate” who is backed by centrists and conservatives in the House.

“Unless the Speaker is a unifying figure across the conference, he or she will face the same challenges that have beset our current leadership,” Brendan Buck said.

He said Ryan “encouraged the members to discuss and consider his requests, and he asked that they make clear whether they support them by this Friday.”

“If the members agree with his requests and share his vision, and if he is a unity candidate — with the endorsement of all the conference’s major caucuses — then he will serve as Speaker. He will be all in,” Buck said. “But if he is not a unifying figure for the conference, then he will not run and will be happy to continue serving as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.”

Buck insisted Ryan’s comments did not amount to a final decision on a run for the Speakership but rather the Wisconsin lawmaker’s views on what it would take for the next Speaker to be successful.

Ryan has been under pressure to run for Speaker for more than a week after the surprise decision by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to bow out of the race to succeed Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who plans to retire at the end of the month.

He’s been reluctant to take the job for a number of reasons, including the toll it could take on his family. He told his colleagues on Tuesday that he would not travel for fundraising as much as other Speakers.

“I cannot and will not give up my family time,” Ryan told reporters. “I may not be on the road as often as previous Speakers but I pledge to try to make up for it with more time communicating our vision, our message.”

After Ryan spoke with his conference, there were some signs of members rallying around him.

House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who had launched a bid for the Speakership against McCarthy, said he would end his pursuit given Ryan’s willingness to serve.

“I’m out, and all in for Paul Ryan,” Chaffetz said.

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), who chairs the Tuesday Group, indicated he and other centrists could endorse Ryan following a discussion among themselves this week.

“I could very easily support Paul Ryan,” Dent said.

But Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.), a founding member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said he wasn’t sure whether he would back Ryan.

“I think a lot of things have to play out first,” Salmon said.

In his presentation, as well as in discussions he held before the closed-door meeting, Ryan signaled that he wanted to bring conservatives into the fold, though not in a way that would cripple his ability to lead the party in the House.

In fact, Buck called for a change to the process for a motion to vacate the chair, which had been used as a weapon to threaten Boehner’s job.

“No matter who is Speaker, they cannot be successful with this weapon pointed at them all the time,” Buck said.

The steepest climb for Ryan will be to win the endorsement of the House Freedom Caucus, the bloc of roughly 40 ultra-conservatives who forced Boehner into an early retirement and pressured McCarthy to bow out of the race to replace him.

The caucus, led by Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), has called for the next Speaker to agree to a series of changes they want to see implemented, including a return to “regular order,” in which bills flow through the committees to the floor.

“He’ll have the same challenge the Speaker had: bringing us all together and trying to get those folks in the Freedom Caucus to support Republican bills,” Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), a Ryan backer, told The Hill.

“I think he’s got the capability, the experience, to be a great Speaker,” Shuster added.

Ryan huddled with Jordan and fellow Freedom Caucus co-founders Mark Meadows (N.C), Mick Mulvaney (S.C.), Raúl Labrador (Idaho) and Justin Amash (Mich.) in his Longworth Building office before the full House GOP meeting.

Meadows said no specific proposals were presented to Ryan at the meeting and insisted his caucus was looking for concessions related to how the House operates.

“We’ve been consistent. It’s not as much about the who as the what. It’s all process driven,” he said. “Chairman Ryan is a very capable individual and certainly has great conservative credentials, so it’s really more about the process than about the person.”

Buck said Ryan had told his colleagues “that he encourages changes to our rules and procedures, but he also believes that those changes must be made as a team. They affect everyone, so everyone should have the opportunity for input.”

The House GOP has been in a state of turmoil since McCarthy’s decision, even as deadlines to raise the debt ceiling and fund the government quickly approach.

Conservatives over the last week have appeared lukewarm about Ryan, suggesting they would not back him for Speaker unless he agreed to significant concessions that would give more power to the House rank and file.

The right-wing revolt against Ryan, who has authored budgets praised by conservatives, triggered more debate within the party, with some questioning how someone with Ryan’s conservative credentials would not pass muster with some members.

In addition to the Freedom Caucus and Tuesday Group, Ryan would need the backing of the 170-member Republican Study Group.

Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas) said he will ask the Republican Study Committee at lunch on Wednesday about whether they will support Ryan.
“My goal is to have a great Republican conference in the House and he can get us there,” Flores told reporters.

Cristina Marcos, Ian Swanson and Mike Lillis contributed.

Last updated at 9:05 p.m.

Here’s the full statement from Ryan spokesman Brendan Buck:

Tonight, Congressman Ryan laid out to his colleagues why he believes we are in this situation and what he thinks is needed for us to move forward as a team.

He did not announce a final decision on the speakership, but he did discuss what’s necessary, in his view, for the next speaker to be successful.

First, he said our next speaker needs to be visionary: more focused on communicating our agenda and laying out big ideas. The next speaker needs to use the platform to create a clear policy choice for the country.

In addition, he told his colleagues that he encourages changes to our rules and procedures, but he also believes that those changes must be made as a team. They affect everyone, so everyone should have the opportunity for input.

As part of those rules changes, he believes there needs to be a change to the process for a motion to vacate the chair. No matter who is speaker, they cannot be successful with this weapon pointed at them all the time.

He also made clear that family comes first. And a successful speaker must be able to maintain a healthy work-family balance. Less time on the road can be compensated for with a greater focus on communicating our message to the public.

Finally, he believes that for the next speaker to be successful, we need to unify now. Unless the speaker is a unifying figure across the conference, he or she will face the same challenges that have beset our current leadership.

With that, Chairman Ryan encouraged the members to discuss and consider his requests, and he asked that they make clear whether they support them by this Friday.

If the members agree with his requests and share his vision, and if he is a unity candidate—with the endorsement of all the conference’s major caucuses—then he will serve as speaker. He will be all in.

But if he is not a unifying figure for the conference, then he will not run and will be happy to continue serving as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.

Chairman Ryan will make a statement to the press in CVC Studio A, following the conference meeting.

Scott Wong