The remarkable debacle kicked off last month when John Boehner announced he was leaving Congress and the speakership has finally been resolved. Rep. Paul Ryan won the Republican conference’s nomination to be Speaker of the House on Wednesday, but only got 200 of the necessary 218 votes needed to win the full floor vote. That united front of opposition from the Freedom Caucus types melted Thursday morning, when their chosen candidate Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL) urged his supporters to support Ryan. Reps. David Brat (VA), Curt Clawson (FL), Louie Gohmert (TX), Paul Gosar (AZ), Walter Jones (NC), Tom Massie (KY), Bill Posey (FL), Randy Weber (TX) and Ted Yoho (FL) voted Webster anyway, and in the final vote, Ryan easily got the votes he needed, 236.
How he got to the point of securing those votes is the subject of a Politico article this morning.
When North Carolina Rep. Mark
filed a so-called motion to declare the speakership vacant in late July, it was the beginning of the end for Boehner. Ryan knew he could suffer the same fate. The Ways and Means chairman told his closest friends that he couldn’t operate with that kind of threat hanging over his head.
He had a few options at hand, but no clear strategy for how he would remove the dangling legislative anvil. But he felt strongly it had to get done. Ryan intended to act quickly. He would secure the support for the speakership, but at the same time, Ryan planned to head to the House floor to set up a vote on changing the rules to make it harder to remove him. It was a power move that would leave no doubt who was in charge.
But like so many decisions in Ryan’s run for the speakership, this one was subject to drastic change and modification. After multiple private discussions with Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, a friend and leader of the House Freedom Caucus, Ryan reversed course. He delayed his bid to change the motion on the House floor and told conservatives they would discuss the reform as part of a larger conversation about overhauling the House rules later this fall or early next year.
Did Ryan cave or did he outsmart the problem children? Not that outsmarting them would be any great feat, but it’s the latter. For the motion to vacate the chair to actually work, the Freedom Caucus and assorted other nihilists would need the former speaker, Democrat Nancy Pelosi, to play along. Now, Democrats are definitely relishing the intra-party fighting in the GOP, but they aren’t going to be willing to actually join with the maniacs to blow the institution to smithereens. Or associate themselves with the maniacs. Ultimately, the motion to vacate is an empty threat. Boehner had to have known that as well, so maybe he just was done with all the nonsense, and the motion to vacate was just the excuse he needed to get the hell out of Dodge.