It's official: House GOP nominates Paul Ryan to be next Speaker -- with 45 votes against

Forty-three of those 45 votes were for Dan Webster, the Freedom Caucus’s initial choice for Speaker. But wait: Didn’t a supermajority of the Freedom Caucus agree to support Ryan for Speaker after he met with them last week? What gives? Are they punishing him now for his mystifying decision to vote yes on Boehner’s atrocious budget bill?

Probably not. Emphasis: Probably.

In an attempt to be loyal to the first man who won them over, many Freedom Caucus members will vote for Rep. Daniel Webster of Florida when the House Republican Conference will pick its nominee for speaker in a secret ballot…

“It would be difficult to go back on an endorsement we made for an honorable man who has a good plan, so certainly in conference I plan to endorse Daniel Webster,” Rep. Mark Meadows, a Freedom Caucus board member, told The Daily Signal. “I don’t want to speak for all of them, but I would say I would be surprised if Webster didn’t get overwhelming Freedom Caucus support in conference. There is nothing he has done to say we should not still vote for him in conference.”…

Last week, a supermajority of the Freedom Caucus pledged their support to Ryan. That figure will likely stay true when members vote to elect him on the House floor Thursday.

They voted for Webster in the Republican-only meeting to nominate a Speaker and now, having lost that vote, they’ll be good soldiers for Ryan tomorrow when the entire House votes to choose the next Speaker. Assuming that’s true, Ryan will cruise with something like 230-235 votes in his favor. But should we assume it? Meadows, who pushed the motion to vacate the chair that ended up forcing out Boehner, put out a statement yesterday calling on all candidates for Speaker to oppose the new budget. I thought it was a cinch that Ryan would do so, with Boehner’s (quiet) support, to draw a contrast between himself and the despised current GOP leadership. Instead he’s backing the bill. If the Freedom Caucus follows Meadows’s litmus test, there could be a revolt on the floor tomorrow in which that supermajority that planned to support Ryan suddenly has second thoughts. If the FC as a whole suddenly decided to vote for someone else, Ryan couldn’t get to 218. It would be a total fiasco. Which is why, if something like that was in the works, I trust we would have already heard about it. They would have signaled to the caucus somehow before today’s vote that bringing Ryan to the floor tomorrow as nominee would only produce stalemate. Evidently they’re going to let him get away with his vote for supporting the budget. But why?

Is it because he’s talking the talk behind closed doors, regardless of how he plans to vote?

“[Ryan] said we haven’t been running a good ship for a while now,” one HFC member tells National Review. His diagnosis: Boehner’s team has too often failed to develop an actionable strategy in fights with President Obama, which has resulted in leadership setting the GOP agenda in eleventh-hour talks that give Democrats the negotiating power to advance their legislative priorities. 

As a corrective, Ryan plans to schedule “semi-regular” GOP conference meetings “that are focused on policy” rather than House current events, according to a spokesman in his office. He also wants to meet more frequently with individual members of the conference, giving HFC lawmakers a chance to influence the strategy while also binding them to support the conference’s plan…

Such an appetite for unity arises, in part, from another criticism Ryan leveled at Boehner in his meeting with the HFC. According to two lawmakers who attended, he argued that stewardship of the Republican conference had gone downhill since former House Majority Leader Dick Armey left office in 2003, because the committees had atrophied as the most significant legislation was crafted by party leaders in the midst of high-drama talks with Democrats.

Decentralized policymaking at the committee level, not from the Speaker’s chair — that’s “regular order,” one of the HFC’s core demands. As long as Ryan’s serious about that, maybe they’ll grant him one last RINO-y vote on a Boehner giveaway to Democrats. They could always justify it to themselves as Ryan showing some leadership in walking the plank for the current Speaker despite being fully aware of the political headache this will create for him. The bill’s going to pass even if he votes no; his opposition would be meaningless except as a signal to the right that he intends to do things differently, and he’s already sending that signal to them in talks about procedural reforms.

Here’s Ryan after today’s conference vote. Your exit quotation comes from Trey Gowdy.

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David Strom 6:01 PM on March 29, 2023