Reluctant Paul Ryan has agreed to run for House speaker, but the price might be too high for conservatives.
Wisconsin’s 1st District Representative—who joined Mitt Romney’s failed 2012 White House bid—told House Republicans Tuesday that he would agree to become speaker, but only if the entire party supports him. And he had one other condition that could be a deal-breaker.
In remarks to reporters after the meeting, Ryan said “I’ll leave it up to my colleagues to decide if I am that unifying person.”
With Utah’s Jason Chaffetz and Georgia’s Lynn Westmoreland withdrawing from race, only one hurdle remains: the House Freedom Caucus, with nearly 40 of the GOP’s most conservative members.
Ryan is asking for a rule change that would weaken Congress’ ability to remove the speaker—even though such a vote has never succeeded on the floor of the House. Outgoing Speaker John Boehner was forced to resign because Rep. Mark Meadows filed a little-known and rarely used “motion to vacate the chair” in July.
That motion, which dates back to Thomas Jefferson, can force a speaker out of office at any time with a simple majority vote.
“I thought if it was good enough for Thomas Jefferson, it was probably good enough for the U.S. House today,” HFC member Kansas Rep. Tim Huelskamp told CQ Roll Call.
Ryan laughed in reply when informed about Huelskamp’s statement.
The only organization without a way to get rid of its speaker is a dictatorship, Huelskamp added. “Never thought Paul Ryan would come in and say, ‘I want more power than John Boehner has,’” he said.
Ryan, who currently chairs the powerful Ways and Means Committee, also wants the endorsement of the HFC — something that will require agreement from 80 percent of its members.
Idaho Rep. Raúl Labrador called Ryan’s rule changes a “non-starter,” according to CQ Roll Call. Labrador doubted even 20 percent of the conservative caucus would offer their support with those conditions.
Some conservatives voiced their objections on Twitter.
Paul Ryan’s list of demands make him unqualified to be speaker. He wants a dictatorship
— Fire-McConnell (@Rushlimbang) October 21, 2015
If Ryan wants to be the new speaker, he will have to deal with conservatives on their terms, which includes leaving Jefferson’s rule as-is. “That’s a protection for the people,” said Michigan Rep. Justin Amash.
Watch Ryan’s remarks below, courtesy of CNN.