WASHINGTON - Congressman Paul Ryan said he is willing to serve as House of Representatives speaker — a position second in line to succeed the president — but only if divided Republicans embrace him by week’s end as their consensus candidate.
It’s a big “if” for House Republicans who have careened from one crisis to another in recent years, with a compromise-averse band of hardliners forcing a partial government shutdown two years ago, ultimately driving out the current House speaker, and scaring off his No. 2.
That left Ryan, the Republicans’ 2012 vice presidential nominee, to get dragged reluctantly into seeking a job he says he never wanted. As he announced late Tuesday that he would seek the speakership, Ryan made clear that he would do so only with conditions. He wants the endorsement of the major caucuses of the House, including the hard-line conservative Freedom Caucus.
That’s the group whose threats against Speaker John Boehner pushed him to announce he would resign by month’s end and forced Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to abruptly drop his campaign to replace him.
Boehner is moving quickly to try to resolve the issue, telling Republicans Wednesday that the party will meet next Wednesday and vote on a candidate to replace him. The full House would then choose its new speaker on Thursday — if all goes according to plan.
Coming days will tell if Ryan can win the hardliners’ support or become their latest victim.
“What I told members is if you can agree to these requests and if I can truly be a unifying figure, then I will gladly serve, and if I am not unifying, that is fine as well — I will be happy to stay where I am,” Ryan said.
The 45-year-old Ryan gave his colleagues until Friday to express their support. Members of the Freedom Caucus quickly made clear they remained to be convinced.
“I think he has to campaign for it. We’ve heard one speech,” said Rep. Scott Perry. “We’re willing to listen but it’s the beginning of the conversation as far as I’m concerned.”
The other candidates, nearly a dozen, all lack Ryan’s stature and broad support.