Ryan met with them this afternoon but no endorsement was pledged at the time. Per the Freedom Caucus’s own rules, the formal support of the entire body will be issued only when 80 percent of the members agree. If he’s serious about what he said last night, that he wants the backing of all of the House’s major caucuses, then the FC can singlehandedly end his candidacy for Speaker by withholding their endorsement tonight.
Here’s your thread as we wait for results.
Paul Ryan's potential bid for speaker will be decided TONIGHT. FREEDOM CAUCUS will vote on endorsement tonight. Without their nod Ryan's out
— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) October 21, 2015
A potential caveat to the end of that tweet: It’s possible, I guess, that the FC might try to punt at the last second by changing its mind and deciding not to hold a vote after all. Members could be freed to support or oppose Ryan as they see fit; if, say, 30 of the 40-odd members of the FC told Ryan they’d vote for him when the entire House elects its new Speaker, maybe that would be enough support for Ryan to decide to run. He would lack the formal endorsement of the Freedom Caucus as a body but he’d have the individual backing of most (if not quite 80 percent) of its members. That option might be attractive to the FC as a way to satisfy grassroots conservatives that the body never did end up endorsing Ryan even though, er, its individual members made his Speakership possible. But I’m not sure either side would find that acceptable. The whole point of forming a Freedom Caucus in the first place was to maximize the leverage of House conservatives by creating a bloc that would vote together. If members are allowed to go their own way on Ryan, the bloc effectively has disintegrated on a key vote. Ryan, meanwhile, is keen on the symbolism of receiving the FC’s formal endorsement as proof that the entire Republican caucus supports him. Without that, he’d take the gavel lacking the unity he was supposed to provide. If the Freedom Caucus refuses to support him as a group, I think he’ll drop out.
As for his key demand that they reform the procedures for a motion to vacate the chair, here’s a bit of what he has in mind:
Currently, the motion to vacate can be filed as a “privileged” motion. That means any member can bring it up and it becomes the immediate business of the House. In the House’s current configuration, only 29 Republicans are needed to remove the speaker of the House.
Ryan has discussed raising the threshold to bring a motion to vacate to the floor, perhaps by mandating an internal party vote first. He also has suggested stripping it of its privileged status, so 218 votes would be needed to bring it up. He has discussed raising the threshold of passage to a two-thirds majority, but that has lost steam because Democrats then would be needed to remove a Republican speaker.
I don’t see how any of those proposals fly. Obviously, to reconcile the two sides, there needs to be a compromise in which (a) the Freedom Caucus can’t singlehandedly remove the Speaker via the 40+ votes it controls and (b) the new threshold for removing the Speaker isn’t so high that the Freedom Caucus realistically has no chance of meeting it. They’ll never get 218 votes to remove Ryan unless Democrats join with them, in which case that’ll be an entirely differently type of chaos. They almost certainly couldn’t even get a majority of the GOP caucus, which at the moment would require 124 votes, to remove Ryan absent extraordinary circumstances. Maybe, if you allowed the motion with a fifth of the entire House, say — 87 votes — the FC would agree to that as a workable compromise. But if that was on the table, we’d probably have heard of it by now. I’ll be really surprised if they vote to endorse Ryan given all the pushback in conservative media today. Although the “probationary period” idea is out there for caucus chair Jim Jordan if he wants to give Ryan a shot and needs to defend the decision to his base. I’ll leave you with this:
Just talked to Rep. Dan Webster, who says no supporter has told him they're switching to Ryan. "Maybe they'll be polite and not tell me."
— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) October 21, 2015
Update: Lo and behold, here’s that potential compromise scenario I imagined. Ryan didn’t get the 80 percent of the Freedom Caucus needed for a formal endorsement, but he did get a heavy majority of them. Is that good enough to get him to run? And is it good enough for grassroots conservatives that the group won’t be endorsing him — even though most of its individual members will?
Raul Labrador says they did not get 80 percent to endorse, but a supermajority backs Ryan. Good enough for Ryan?
— John McCormack (@McCormackJohn) October 21, 2015
Update: Yep, sounds like the FC is trying to walk the line. They’re not endorsing Ryan, as he demanded. But they are “supporting” him, given the supermajority within the caucus in favor of him. Er, okay.
support, but not endorse. https://t.co/qpf2HtPage
— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) October 21, 2015
Update: The caucus releases a statement. As close to an endorsement as a non-endorsement can be:
“A supermajority of the House Freedom Caucus has voted to support Paul Ryan’s bid to become the next Speaker of the House. Paul is a policy entrepreneur who has developed conservative reforms dealing with a wide variety of subjects, and he has promised to be an ideas-focused Speaker who will advance limited government principles and devolve power to the membership. While no consensus exists among members of the House Freedom Caucus regarding Chairman Ryan’s preconditions for serving, we believe that these issues can be resolved within our Conference in due time. We all know that Washington needs to change the way it does business, and we look forward to working with Paul and all our colleagues to enact process reforms that empower individual representatives and restore respect to our institution.”
I take it this is their way of calling Ryan’s bluff, as best they can, that he won’t serve without a formal endorsement. Is he really going to turn down the Speakership because the FC would “only” provide him with a supermajority?