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Paul Ryan Says He'll Run for House Speaker, But Only If the Entire GOP Votes for Him

He says he'll only run as a "unity candidate" for House Republicans.

by Mike Pearl
Oct 21 2015, 2:00am

Photo via Wikimedia Commons user Gage Skidmore

Giving in to the teary pleas of his colleagues, Paul Ryan said Tuesday that he will run for Speaker of the House—but only on one condition. According to news reports, Ryan told Republicans at a closed-door meeting Tuesday night that he will only run as something called a "unity candidate," which means that before he even puts his name on the ballot, he wants the endorsement of every major Republican caucus.

Why would he insist on such endorsements in advance, instead of letting the usual voting process run its course? Because being House Speaker is apparently a soul-sucking, thankless job, and no one in the Republican Party wants to do it. "Unity," in this case, means a bridge between the two warring factions within the Republican Party: the increasingly powerful faction of hardline conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus, and the Establishment Republicans who can't figure out how to get control of the lunatics they work with.

The latter group is known for habits like compromising in order to achieve acceptable political aims rather than resorting to brinksmanship. For instance, this morning, Boehner signaled that he was ready to make a deal with House Democrats that would raise the debt ceiling in order to avoid a government shutdown.

Freedom Caucus Republicans, by contrast, have staked their reputation on refusing to back down, like the time they vowed not to sign any spending bill that would include money for Planned Parenthood. The bill that finally got signed didn't fund Planned Parenthood, technically, but also it didn't defund it, so on paper there was no compromise.

Ryan is not a member of the Freedom Caucus, and has lost Republican points in the past by doing stuff like voting in favor of a bill that banned workplace discrimination against LGBT people, and running to be Mitt Romney's vice president. But he knows that without the Freedom Caucus' support, he will likely go the way of Boehner.

Ryan's communications director Brendan Buck tweeted Tuesday that he didn't expect an answer by the end of the night. But according to Bloomberg, Ryan wants an answer from the caucuses by Friday—and that if he gets the go-ahead, he'll reportedly be "all in."

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