Popular U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., opened the door to replacing House Speaker John Boehner this week, but a congressman from Florida is still standing in his way.
After Boehner, R-Ohio, announced that he was resigning at the end of October, Florida's Dan Webster, who challenged the speaker earlier this year, launched another bid for the gavel. While U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., had been the favorite to replace Bohener, enough conservatives in the Republican caucus opposed him to deny him the speakership.
After McCarthy dropped out, pressure built on Ryan to aspire for the gavel. The Wisconsin Republican currently leads the Ways and Means Committee and chaired the Budget Committee before that. Ryan also took to the national stage as former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s running mate in the 2012 presidential election.
Ryan announced Tuesday night that he was open to serving as speaker under certain conditions.
"I shared with my colleagues what I think it will take to have a unified conference and for the next speaker to be successful,” Ryan said. "Basically I made a few requests for what I think is necessary, and I asked to hear back by the end of the week. First, we need to move from being an opposition party to a proposition party. Because we think the nation is on the wrong path, we have a duty to show the right one. Our next speaker needs to be a visionary one. Second, we need to update our House rules so that everyone can be a more effective representative. This is, after all, the people’s house. But we need to do it as a team. And it needs to include fixes that ensure we don’t experience constant leadership challenges and crisis. Third, we, as a conference, should unify now, and not after a divisive speaker election. The last one is personal. I cannot and will not give up my family time. I may not be able to be on the road as much as previous speakers, but I pledged to make up for it with more time communicating our message.
"What I told the members is, if you can agree to these requests, and I can truly be a unifying figure, then I will gladly serve,” Ryan added. “And, if I am not unifying, that is fine as well. I will be happy to stay where am, at the Ways and Means Committee.
"Here is how I see it,” Ryan continued. "It is our duty to serve the people the way they deserve to be served. It is our duty to make the tough decisions this country needs to get back on track. The challenges we face today are too difficult and demanding for us to turn our backs and walk away. Global terror . . . wars on multiple fronts . . . a government grown unaccountable.unconstitutional, and out-of-touch . . . persistent poverty, a sluggish economy, flat wages, and a sky-rocketing debt. But we cannot take them on alone. Now, more than ever, we must work together. All of us are representatives of the people—all the people. We have been entrusted by them to lead. And yet the people we serve do not feel that we are delivering on the job they hired us to do. We have become the problem. If my colleagues entrust me to be speaker, I want us to become the solution.”
Ryan insisted Americans wanted less finger-pointing and more solutions in Congress and stressed his conservative principles, even as he said he had “reluctance” about aspiring to serve as speaker and was worried about his family.
“My greatest worry is the consequence of not stepping up," Ryan said. “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. I have shown my colleagues what I think success looks like, what it takes to unify and lead, and how my family commitments come first. I have left this decision in their hands, and should they agree with these requests, then I am happy and willing to get to work."
But even with Ryan opening the door to serve as speaker, Webster showed no signs of backing down.
“I’m running for speaker to transform a broken Congress based on the power of a few into a principle-based, member-driven Congress,” Webster insisted on Wednesday. “I will continue to share my vision of pushing down the pyramid of power and spreading out the base to allow each member to be successful.”
Webster, who served as the first Republican speaker of the Florida House since Reconstruction, has the support of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. While he only pulled 12 votes against Boehner in January, Webster had around 40-50 votes in the Republican caucus against McCarthy in the postponed leadership contest.
Ryan has drawn fire from the right for his support of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) when federal funds were used to bailout the financial industry in 2008. Conservatives have also jabbed Ryan for his ties to McCarthy and former U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., in the Republican establishment. Ryan teamed up with McCarthy and Cantor to write “Young Guns” in 2010.
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