Government & Politics

Ryan's Conditions for Speaker Run

"If I can truly be a unifying figure, then I will gladly serve."

Nate Jackson · Oct. 21, 2015

Paul Ryan said Tuesday he’s willing to take a shot at being House speaker, but only under certain conditions. “If I can truly be a unifying figure, then I will gladly serve,” Ryan said. “I’ll be happy to stay where I am at the Ways and Means Committee.” Not only are other Republicans drafting Ryan to run for speaker, but he has repeatedly insisted he doesn’t want the job. “This is not a job I’ve ever wanted,” he told reporters after a meeting with Republicans, yet he “came to the conclusion that this is a very dire moment.” That position as the reluctant warrior likely means he’ll be able to secure at least some of the concessions he seeks.

First, Ryan aims to delegate some of the traditional traveling and fundraising duties of the speaker to someone else. John Boehner spends about 200 days on the road every year. But Ryan has a young family back home in Wisconsin, and he isn’t going to sacrifice them on the altar of politics. (Would that more men were willing to be husbands and fathers first.)

Second, and far more significant, Ryan wants unity among Republicans — support from the Republican Study Committee, the Freedom Caucus, the moderate Tuesday Group, and so on. Members have until Friday to decide whether they’re willing to put aside their quarrels and rally behind him, or whether he should leave the job nobody wants to someone else.

Republican unity has been particularly hard to come by over the last few years, as most agree on what to oppose but not how to oppose it. Those intraparty fights often resulted in self-inflicted defeats, and, eventually, frustration boiled over and conservatives forced Boehner’s resignation. We believe that’s a good thing, but Republicans need someone around whom they can rally. Ryan could very well be that guy.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t some reservations about his conditions. For example, National Review’s Elaina Plott reports, “[A]mong Ryan’s terms was the repeal of the Motion to Vacate the Chair, which Thomas Jefferson authored and which gives House members the power to oust a sitting Speaker. It was the piece of parliamentary procedure used to dethrone John Boehner just last month, and based on conversations with two Freedom Caucus members, could prove Ryan’s most difficult obstacle to gaining their support.”

Fox News’ Chris Stirewalt adds, “What Ryan wants is to change the rule that allows for a GOP minority to team up with Democrats to dethrone a speaker. In exchange, he is offering to democratize some parts of House procedure, which meets some demands of the holdouts who decry the heavy-handed tactics of the current regime.”

It’s understandable that Ryan isn’t keen to take a job he never wanted only to have Republicans draw their knives on him after a move some don’t like. That said, it’s also a considerable red flag for conservatives who’ve learned not to trust leadership. We’ll see if Republicans or Ryan concede on this one.

Ryan is a good man and a good conservative on most issues. Time will tell if he’s asking too much to do a job Republicans need him to do. But it’s hard to deny his reasoning isn’t motivated by love of family and country first.

He closed his remarks by saying, “I consider whether to do this with reluctance. And I mean that in the most personal of ways.

"Like many of you, Janna and I have children who are in the formative, foundational years of their lives. I genuinely worry about the consequences that my agreeing to serve will have on them. Will they experience the viciousness and incivility that we all face on a daily basis?

"But my greatest worry is the consequence of not stepping up. Of some day having my own kids ask me, ‘When the stakes were so high, why didn’t you do all you could? Why didn’t you stand and fight for my future when you had the chance?’

"None of us wants to hear that question. And none of us should ever have to.”

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