House Conservatives Not Sold On Paul Ryan For Speaker

They don't like his reluctance to take a job nobody wants.

WASHINGTON -- To the delight of GOP leaders, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has finally come around and agreed to run for speaker -- as long as a few conditions are met.

He wants the weekends with his family. He wants an endorsement from all major caucuses. And he wants the House to change its rules so disgruntled lawmakers can't easily remove him as speaker if they don't like the job he's doing.

Party leaders and moderates, who see Ryan as the only one who can unify a GOP conference in disarray, say his terms are fine with them. But tea party lawmakers say he's asking for way too much -- especially for a guy who doesn't really want the job.

"I'm troubled by an insistence of so many members that we put him in a position that he has shown a reluctance to take," said Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), a member of the socially conservative House Freedom Caucus. "He is a father. He has young children. He does not have time to do the speaker job as it's been done in the past."

"He said that he wanted every caucus in the GOP to vote for him. But I'd like to remind him, the chairman of the Tea Party Caucus and the chairman of the Liberty Caucus are two guys he kicked off the budget committee," Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) said on MSNBC. "So it could be tough to get unanimity."

Republicans have been scrambling for weeks to find someone to replace outgoing Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was expected to take the spot, but he abruptly withdrew from the race and sent the conference into chaos. A few members have tossed their names into the mix, but they've been overshadowed by a surge of support for a Ryan bid. He said no for weeks, but finally caved to pressure on Tuesday.

Ryan, who chairs the Ways and Means Committee and was Mitt Romney's vice presidential running mate in 2012, says he won't run if he can't lock in the needed 218 votes. His biggest obstacle is the Freedom Caucus. The 36-member group already endorsed one of their own, Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.), for speaker, and some conservatives aren't budging.

"I respect him," Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said of Ryan. "But I'm going to be supporting Dan Webster."

"Daniel Webster is still in the race and there are a lot of people, as of this morning, still backing Daniel Webster," said Massie.

Ryan is meeting with the Freedom Caucus on Wednesday afternoon. Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), one of the caucus leaders, said it's not his fault if Ryan ultimately drops his speaker bid because he can't get the support of hard-line conservatives.

"I don't think it's my responsibility," he said. "He just needs to come talk to us. It's pretty simple. We're not asking for a lot."

Moderates just want the Freedom Caucus to stand down and help install a consensus party nominee like Ryan.

"They have to decide if they want to be part of this team," said Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.). "If Paul Ryan can't get to 218, no one can."

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) said tea party lawmakers will prove they are "a disaster for the Republican Party and the country" if they don't accept that Ryan is their party's best hope for unity. He said Ryan's terms for running are more than fair.

"I don't see why he would agree to be speaker under any other conditions," King said. "Basically, what he's asking for is a normal way of conducting the House. If he's denied that, then I wouldn't blame him for not running."

CORRECTION: This article has been updated to reflect that the Freedom Caucus has 36 members, not 42; that Rep. Thomas Massie's district is in Kentucky, not West Virginia and that Rep. Mo Brooks' district is in Alabama, not South Carolina.

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