WASHINGTON -- Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told the House Republican conference Tuesday that he will enter the race for speaker of the House, but only if he wins support from all wings of the party.
Despite his previous insistence that he wouldn't run, Ryan, the House Ways and Means Committee chairman, told members in a rare evening meeting that he would jump in if Republicans agree to his conditions.
"If I can truly be a unifying figure, then I will gladly serve," Ryan told reporters after the meeting. "And if I am not unifying, that will be fine as well. I'll be happy to stay where I am."
Ryan said he insisted on several conditions he expects his colleagues to answer by the end of the week. The stipulations included: Republicans will stop being "an opposition party;" Republicans need to "update House rules so everyone can be a more effective representative;" the conference needs to unify "now;" Ryan cannot and will not give up time with his family.
"We have become the problem," Ryan said. "If my colleagues entrust me to be the speaker, I want us to be the solution."
Ryan told Republicans he'd only run if three main groups within the conference support his bid. Those GOP caucus groups include the moderate Tuesday Group, the conservative House Freedom Caucus, and Republican Study Committee.
Republicans coming out of the meeting said Ryan told them he wants full support from the entire conference, and won't run if he doesn't have the 218 votes he'd need to win.
Ryan will make a formal decision by Friday if House GOP caucuses confirm they'll back him and agree to the conditions.
Ryan's conditions make clear he will not tolerate members rushing to oust him at the first sign of disagreement. He indicated he would not spend as much time as outgoing Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) fundraising or traveling, pledging "to make up for it with more time communicating."
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who jumped into the speaker race earlier this month, said he would bow out and support Ryan:
Ryan was reportedly urged to run by Boehner, after House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) suddenly pulled out of the race earlier this month. House Republicans then scrambled to find a suitable replacement.
"It's up to members of conference to rally around him and I think they will," said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) as he exited the meeting. "I think there's a lot of support for Paul Ryan."
Cole added that Ryan told Republicans they are at "a critical moment" and urged them "to come together."
"He said he would listen to everybody and he's open to talk to people," Cole said. "He's not going to make any bargains for the job and frankly, I don't think he should."
Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), a key member of the House Freedom Caucus, which is credited with helping edge out Boehner, wouldn't comment on Ryan's pitch to the conference, adding that he needs time to think over what Ryan said.
Ryan, seen by many as the best candidate to unite the party, had emerged as a favorite for the speaker post, with both Boehner and McCarthy indicating they would back him. Soon after McCarthy dropped his bid, Ryan canceled scheduled fundraisers, fueling more rumors that he was mulling a speaker bid. However, he and his staff continued to insist that he was not interested in the job.
Following the meeting, Ryan told reporters he considered the step "with reluctance," repeating a concern that the demanding job would take him away from his wife and children.
"But my greatest worry is the consequence of not stepping up," Ryan quickly added. "Of someday having my own kids ask me when the stakes were so high, 'Why didn't you do all you could do? Why didn't you stand and fight for my future when you had a chance to do so?'"
Pressed on what ultimately persuaded him, Ryan said it came down to what would happen if he didn't jump in.
"This is not a job I've ever wanted. I'm in the job I've always wanted -- here in Congress," Ryan said. "I came to the conclusion that this is a very dire moment, not just for Congress, not just for Republican Party, but for our country."
This article has been updated to include Ryan's comments.
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