Representative Paul Ryan, Republican from Wisconsin, is much nearer to being selected as Speaker of the House to replace John Boehner who resigned. Wednesday night, the House Freedom Caucus failed to endorse Ryan—one of the Congressman’s conditions to run for Speaker. However, reports indicate that more than two-thirds of the members of the committee voted to support him. This is short of the eighty percent required for an official endorsement. This vote assures Ryan of enough votes to become Speaker without Democratic votes.
Ryan responded to the news of the vote with this statement: “I look forward to hearing from the other two caucuses by the end of the week, but I believe this is a positive step toward a unified Republican team.” Initially, Ryan insisted that all 247 Republicans had to support him as a condition for his candidacy. Apparently, to get the Speaker’s chair Ryan is now dropping his condition of a unanimous Republican endorsement.
Coronation might be an appropriate word to describe Ryan’s ascendancy to the Speaker’s chair. Ryan repeatedly said he did not want the job and would not run. Top Republicans would not take no for an answer and Ryan seemed to relish the attention. Finally, he announced he would run but only if his pre-conditions were met. One of those conditions is that he could never be fired. Ryan did not want to give up his chairmanship of Ways and Means to become Speaker if Republicans could attempt to remove him if they disagreed with his actions.
Some Republicans, including some on the Freedom Caucus, have taken exception to that condition, saying that no other presiding officer in any democracy in the world is immune from being fired by the body that elected him or her. Some compared that to “crowning” a king. It is true, all other democracies, including the U.S. House of Representatives, have provisions that allow the body to remove the Speaker.
According to reports, Ryan was dropping that condition. He told the Freedom Caucus that he did not mean that he could not be fired; he just wanted to change to procedure for doing so. Current procedure is that a speaker can be removed if a majority of the House votes to “vacate the chair.” Ryan did not explain what procedure he would accept in its place.
Ryan pleased the Freedom Caucus by re-affirming that he would not drop the so-called Hastert Rule, meaning that no measure would be brought to the floor unless a majority of the Republicans supported it. He also promised that he would not bring immigration reform to the floor so long as Barack Obama is president. He did not indicate if he would do so if Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders were president. Most Freedom Caucus members align with Trump’s views on immigration.
The Freedom caucus had endorsed Rep. Daniel Webster. They did not rescind that endorsement, but it is rendered moot since two thirds of the members now support Ryan. It appears that the Freedom Caucus does not want to alienate the powers-that-be by appearing to block Ryan’s coronation.
House Republicans had been is chaos since the abrupt resignation of John Boehner last month. The heir-apparent was Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) who announced his candidacy for Speaker, and was expected to easily win the election. At the meeting called to elect him, McCarthy abruptly dropped out of the race, and the election was cancelled. Republicans scrambled to find a leader, but no candidate had the support of 218 Republicans, the number required to elect a Speaker without Democratic votes. The powers-that-be decided that the only candidate who could win a majority without Democratic votes was Paul Ryan.
Unless there is a surprise, Ryan will be crowned on October 28. He will be elected the next day by the full House.