- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Rep. Paul Ryan said Tuesday he’s ready to replace Speaker John A. Boehner if House Republicans of all stripes unite behind his vision, capping an intense wait to hear from the man who many tapped as the sole hope to save a bitterly divided caucus.

Mr. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican and 2012 vice presidential candidate, gave members until Friday to mull whether they’re in his corner or not, an ultimatum designed to get complete buy-in from every wing of the party and avoid the type of disarray that doomed Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s short-lived bid for the post.

“If I can truly be a unifying figure, than I will gladly serve,” Mr. Ryan said after a closed-door meeting with fellow House Republicans.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, Utah Republican, swiftly dropped his own bid for speaker, as attention shifted to Mr. Ryan stated agenda of big ideas, clear policy choices and a cooperative effort to change the way the House operates.

Striking an urgent tone, Mr. Ryan said Republicans were “running out of time” to assert a conservative agenda and that it was time to look inward, instead of assigning blame on the media or anyone else.

“We need to move from an opposition party to being a proposition party,” he said, adding, “Our next speaker has to be a visionary one.”

SEE ALSO: Donald Trump on Paul Ryan for speaker: ‘If he’s a unifying force, whatever it’s going to take’

He also demanded a healthy work-life balance so he could spend time with his family, and said members cannot move to oust the speaker whenever they see fit.

“I cannot and will not give up my family time,” he said.

Mr. Ryan, a 45-year-old father of three school-aged children, long had resisted calls to assume the post, saying he prefers his tax-whiz role as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.

The job also appeared to be a thankless one, after repeated revolts from hardline conservatives ousted Mr. Boehner and derailed Mr. McCarthy’s once-promising bid to replace him.

A spectrum of Republican members begged him to step into the speaker’s chair, casting him as the only savior for a bitterly divided party that must grapple with a full slate of autumn decisions on raising the nation’s debt limit, funding highway projects, and keeping the government open past mid-December.

“I’m not sure anybody can reach 218,” said Rep. Bill Huizenga, Michigan Republican, referring to the number of votes a candidate needs to become speaker. “If Paul can’t, I’m not sure who can.”

Even Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid picked the former 2012 vice presidential candidate as the best man for the job, even if it probably wasn’t the type of endorsement that Mr. Ryan sought.

“He appears to me to be one of the people over there that would be reasonable. I mean, look at some of the other people. I’m a Paul Ryan fan,” Mr. Reid, Nevada Democrat, said, prompting some to wonder if he was just trying to stir up the House GOP.

Mr. Ryan acknowledged Tuesday that he was a reluctant candidate, but said the consequences of “not stepping up” were too great.

He signaled his interest in the job by huddling with several members of the House Freedom Caucus, a bloc of about three dozen Republicans who’ve had a key hand in shaping the race.

Besides the Freedom Caucus, Mr. Ryan wants the support of the centrist Tuesday Group and the more conservative Republican Study Committee.

Earlier this month, the Freedom Caucus rallied around Rep. Daniel Webster of Florida, forcing Mr. McCarthy to realize he might not be able to gather 218 votes from the chamber without making notable concessions to the small faction of conservatives.

Prior to Mr. Ryan’s announcement, Mr. Webster said he had no intention of stepping aside.

Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas said the caucus would still support Mr. Webster, saying the party “can’t have just another Boehner 2.0.”

“This is a job two heartbeats away from the presidency,” he added. “I think Republicans made a mistake in 2010 — I was part of the mistake — in which they crowned John Boehner as speaker before the election of November 2010.”

But others in the caucus cast the race as an open contest to see who will shake things up on Capitol Hill, saying they didn’t want to speculate about who’s in and who’s out of the race.

“If he can make a compelling case we’re going to do business differently in Washington, D.C., then certainly I think he can find a broad range of support,” Rep. Mark Meadows, North Carolina Republican, said of Mr. Ryan.

Some are simply not sold on the Wisconsin congressman.

Last week, the Tea Party Patriots called on the Freedom Caucus to rally around a conservative alternative to Mr. Ryan, saying his support of No Child Left Behind, the Medicare prescription-drug benefit, the Wall Street bailout and increases in the nation’s borrowing limit.

Those votes show he is “no different than John Boehner and Kevin McCarthy, whom grassroots conservatives and the GOP conference have already rejected,” the tea party group said.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

• Anjali Shastry can be reached at ashastry@washingtontimes.com.

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