WASHINGTON — Rep. Paul Ryan said he is willing to serve as House speaker — a position second in line to succeed the President — but only if divided Republicans embrace him by week’s end as their consensus candidate.
It’s a big “if” for House Republicans who have careened from one crisis to another in recent years, with a compromise-averse band of hardliners forcing a partial government shutdown two years ago, ultimately driving out the current House speaker, and scaring off his No. 2.
That left Ryan, the Republicans’ 2012 Vice Presidential nominee, to get dragged reluctantly into seeking a job he says he never wanted.
As he announced late Oct. 20 that he would seek the speakership, Ryan made clear that he would do so only with conditions. He wants the endorsement of the major caucuses of the House, including the hardline Freedom Caucus.
That’s the group whose threats against Speaker John Boehner pushed him to announce he would resign by month’s end and forced Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to abruptly drop his campaign to replace him.
Coming days will tell if Ryan can win their support or become their latest victim.
“What I told members is if you can agree to these requests and if I can truly be a unifying figure, then I will gladly serve, and if I am not unifying, that is fine as well — I will be happy to stay where I am,” Ryan said.
The 45-year-old Ryan gave his colleagues until Oct. 23 to express their support. Members of the Freedom Caucus quickly made clear they remained to be convinced.
“I think he has to campaign for it. We’ve heard one speech,” said Rep. Scott Perry. “We’re willing to listen but it’s the beginning of the conversation as far as I’m concerned.”
The other candidates, nearly a dozen, all lack Ryan’s stature and broad support.
AP writers Erica Werner, Alan Fram and Andrew Taylor contributed