Like I said this morning, it sounds like they did a little horse-trading at their summit. Ryan wants them to give up their right to try to remove the Speaker at any time? Fine. What do they get in return? Perhaps … a few spots for conservatives on the Steering Committee and a return to regular order in drafting legislation?
The terms of a grand bargain haven’t been set yet, but it’s coming together.
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. Should he become House speaker, Ryan will set a deadline by which the House Republican Conference will change chamber and party rules.
If the Freedom Caucus agrees to a higher threshold for bringing a motion to vacate the chair to the House floor they’ll get something in return. If they don’t like what’s offered in the bargain, the current procedure will (presumably) be retained and Ryan (presumably) will eventually decide that the Speakership’s more trouble than it’s worth. There was no big cave by House conservatives to Ryan here, although of course one could still be in the offing once they all sit down to hash out the reforms to House rules. Here’s what FC members told the Weekly Standard last night about the motion:
Labrador reiterated it was a “nonstarter” to abolish the motion to vacate (something Ryan hadn’t actually proposed). But what about increasing the number of sponsors needed to bring a vote to the floor? “We can have that discussion. We’re open to whatever rules change process is. We’re open to a lot of different ideas,” Labrador replied.
Congressman Ken Buck of Colorado, a Freedom Caucus member, told me before the meeting that “some of the outside groups have focused on” changing the rules regarding this process, but Buck said he didn’t “think it’s going to be a major sticking point.”
“I think everybody agrees that in the case of a crime or some other bad activity by a speaker there’s got to be a mechanism to take a speaker out. So whether it’s one vote or whether you have some threshold at 50 signatures or something, there has to be some way to take out a speaker,” Buck said.
There’s been a lot of conservative angst over the past two weeks about the caucus losing its ability to oust a sitting Speaker but it sounds from this like the members themselves saw it all along more as leverage to get the more meaningful reforms they wanted than as a sword of Damocles they were prepared to hold over the head of a string of Boehner’s successors. Total abolition of the motion was a dealbreaker, but Ryan’s not demanding that. Assuming they get what they want from him, I think it’ll be a shrewd trade by the FC. Whether their supporters agree is a different question, as a bargain between the two sides along the lines I’ve described would have the effect of integrating the Freedom Caucus into the wider (and widely disliked) GOP caucus. They’d be hashing out policy with the RINOs on various committees, not holding their feet to the fire with threats to oust the current Speaker for being too compromise-minded towards Obama. I’m not sure how that’ll fly.
For what it’s worth, Trump is “not thrilled” with Ryan’s imminent ascension to the throne. The first summit between the two as president and Speaker, respectively, to hash out immigration reform will be — mwah — magnifique.