Despite those protestations, Ryan has spent his first couple months as Speaker aggressively courting some of the same Freedom Caucus conservatives who forced his predecessor, John Boehner, out of office last fall.
The Wisconsin Republican ensured that conservative rebel Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kansas), ostracized for years by Boehner and his allies, won a subcommittee gavel and a coveted spot on the powerful Speaker-aligned panel that picks committee chairmen.
He’s invited Freedom members to weekly dinners he hosts in the Capitol. And Ryan has made Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a frequent thorn in Boehner’s side, a key member of his advisory team.
So far, founders of the nearly 40-member Freedom Caucus have praised Ryan’s more inclusive leadership style and are willing to give him some breathing room to show what he can do in his new role. But Ryan knows he’s walking a perilous tightrope: A major misstep this year and the Freedom Caucus could send him packing, just like they did to Boehner.