It’s been another crazy week on the Hill, as the House is preparing to choose its new Speaker. This comes after the soon-to-be former Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced his retirement in rather surprising and casual fashion on September 25. His official resignation will take effect at the end of October. That was a long time coming, considering his support has already been on the decline. He barely won the office at the beginning of this congressional term.
With about a week to go, the House is starting to weigh its options, and one name has risen to the fore: Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI.)
For a while, it appeared that Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was Speaker Boehner’s heir-apparent. Just four days after Speaker Boehner announced his retirement, Rep. McCarthy threw his hat into the ring. He appeared to have a base of support and the potential to win. Unfortunately for Rep. McCarthy, appearances don’t always conform to reality. On October 8, he dropped out of the race. Some speculated that it was related to personal issues, but the ultimate reason is that he didn’t really have the 42 votes from the House Freedom Caucus, which would have guaranteed him a voting majority.
At that point, the House Freedom Caucus was backing Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL) who challenged Speaker Boehner in January. Rep. Webster did announce his candidacy for the post, but moderate Republicans likely won’t go for him. He got 12 votes in January, so it’s unlikely he’s going to improve on that.
On Tuesday, Rep. Ryan, who ran as the vice presidential nominee in 2012, presented three conditions to Congress. First, he needed to be “assured that the caucus would unite behind him,” which is surely a nod to the more right-leaning House Freedom Caucus. Second, he “wanted to reform the ‘motion to vacate,’ a rarely-invoked legislative tool that’s essentially a way to boot the speaker from his job.” At the moment, the motion to vacate tool requires a majority to remove a speaker, so any reform would probably just be an increase in the amount of votes required. If Ryan is requiring party unity, this makes perfect sense, since it gives him more power and security. However, this is also the kind of thinking that makes the Freedom Caucus nervous.
His final demand, to guarantee time with his children, is endearing, even if Bryce Covert at ThinkProgress calls it hypocritical for denying the same service to lower income families. Danielle Kurtzleben at NPR suggests that this particular demand may actually be a good thing, because “if more men did what Ryan is doing, it could drastically shrink the gender wage gap.” Maybe, but who knows?
What we do know is that you can now present conditions in an election that places you two heartbeats away from being the leader of the free world. Whether or not that’s a good thing, however, is something you can decide.