Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said, firmly and repeatedly, that he did not want to be Speaker of the House. Offered multiple opportunity, the Wisconsin congressman demurred -- he simply did not want the job.
That is, until yesterday, when the Republican succumbed to intra-party pressure and officially changed his mind
Rep. Paul Ryan announced Thursday that he will seek to replace Rep. John Boehner as speaker of the House. The 2012 Republican nominee for vice president reversed his previous position that he wasn’t interested in the job after intense public pressure from the Republican caucus, which deemed him the lone consensus candidate for the role. After repeatedly saying he didn’t want the the job, which is third in line to the presidency, the Wisconsin lawmaker appeared to hedge this week, presenting a series of conditions under which he would run with an emphasis on party unity.
By all appearances, Ryan is a very safe bet to succeed John Boehner, locking up support on Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon from each of the House GOP's major factions. Barring any unexpected developments, the Wisconsinite will overcome token opposition and officially take the gavel next week.
It's the "series of conditions," however, that are worth pausing to appreciate, because what Paul Ryan said earlier this week isn't quite the same as what he's saying now.
When the chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee first spoke to his GOP colleagues about the possibility of running for Speaker, Ryan said he had some non-negotiable demands. The Republican insisted, for example, that he would need endorsements from each of the major GOP caucus, including the right-wing House Freedom Caucus. Ryan also said he wanted members to agree to scrap the "vacate the chair" rule that allows members to try to oust their own sitting Speaker.
Rep. Paul Ryan has agreed to delay a discussion about reforming the procedural motion used to remove a House speaker, a major concession to the House Freedom Caucus. The Wisconsin Republican, now the presumptive next speaker of the House, delivered the message to Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, the chairman of the Freedom Caucus, according to multiple sources familiar with the discussion. Possible changes to the so-called "motion to vacate" will now come as part of a larger discussion of reworking internal party and House rules.
In other words, maybe Ryan will eventually get what he wants, maybe not. There will be a package of reforms considered at some point in the future, and House Republicans will figure it out later.
In the larger context, note the degree to which Ryan has gone from making demands to making concessions, just over the course of a few days. Ryan said he expected the Freedom Caucus' endorsement; the Freedom Caucus said, "Nope"; and Ryan responded, "Close enough." Ryan said he wanted to scrap the vacate-the-chair motion; the Freedom Caucus said, "Nope"; and Ryan responded, "Well, we'll figure it out later."
One of John Boehner's biggest problems as Speaker for nearly five years was his striking weakness: he just didn't wield any real power and consistently lacked influence over the direction of his own conference. Paul Ryan isn't even Speaker yet, but he also appears to be starting on a rather weak foot.