Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin cleared the first major hurdle to becoming House speaker, winning his party’s closed-door nomination for the high-profile position on Wednesday afternoon.
Ryan received 200 votes compared to Rep. Daniel Webster of Florida, who got 43 votes. Next, an official public vote will take place Thursday morning on the House floor, where the House Ways and Means Committee chairman needs to secure 218 votes to replace John Boehner, who is retiring at the end of the month. Although Ryan on Wednesday was short of that number, it's expected enough of his colleagues will rally behind him when the final ballots are cast on Thursday.
"Our party has lost its vision, and we are going to replace it with a vision," he told reporters after sealing the nomination. "We believe that the country's on the wrong track."
Ryan, who called the win a "great honor," had previously said he had no interest in the job. But after much arm twisting and high-pressure sales pitches from establishment Republicans, the lawmaker said he was willing to be the next speaker — but only if his fellow lawmakers fulfilled several conditions.
One of those stipulations was assurance that his deeply divided caucus would unite behind him, including the House Freedom Caucus (HFC), a group of approximately 40 hard-lined conservatives who helped hasten Boehner’s departure from the speakership and tanked the candidacy of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Initially there were questions over whether the caucus would let Ryan off the hook for his more moderate stances on immigration and TARP, the Wall Street bailout program.
While some members of the HFC said they’d cast their secret ballot for Webster instead, Ryan was still able to easily lock down the 124 votes to become the nominee.
Meanwhile, Ryan said on Wednesday morning that he would back a deal — opposed by the HFC — to raise the debt ceiling and set a two-year budget, despite earlier remarks that the process “stinks.” Boehner had drawn the ire of conservatives after he held private meetings with Democrats and Senate leaders to hammer out a spending plan before the Nov. 3 deadline. That vote is scheduled to happen later in the afternoon.
“Once again, we are facing a hard deadline and few good options,” Ryan said in a statement before the won the nomination. “There is no doubt that a better process would have produced a better result. If I’m elected speaker, we will begin a conversation about how to approach these big issues — as a team — long before we reach these kinds of deadlines. We simply can’t keep doing business this way.”