The House Freedom Caucus, a bloc of Tea Party members that typically votes together to advance conservative causes, has signaled its surrender and has backed Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan for the Speaker of the House position.
The news was greeted warmly by the Obama administration, which immediately raised some eyebrows among GOP hardliners.
“The president believes that Congressman Ryan is someone who has given considerable thought to the significant issues that must be worked through in Congress,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz, spokesman for the Obama administration, said Thursday.
On their way to becoming Ryan’s kingmaker, the Freedom Caucus anti-establishment conservatives backed down from their calls for a more hardline speaker and gave in to more moderate Republicans.
Two-thirds of the caucus’ roughly 40 lawmakers backed Ryan’s bid for speaker, risking a backlash from tea party groups and talk show commentators who usually cheer them on.
“House Republicans who support Paul Ryan are entering a toxic primary environment” for their own re-elections next year, conservative commentator Richard Viguerie warned Thursday on his website.
Ryan formally declared his candidacy for the job in a letter to his GOP colleagues late Thursday, saying, “We have an opportunity to turn the page, to start with a clean slate, and to rebuild what has been lost.”
He seems certain to win his party’s nomination for the job next Wednesday and be elected by the full House the following day.
As the Freedom Caucus internally debated whether to back Ryan, some were concerned about Ryan having his own demands, such as curbing members from suddenly forcing votes to depose speakers.
The group derives its strength from arithmetic.
Though they’ve never released an official membership list, the caucus claims around 40 members. With 247 House Republicans, a united Freedom Caucus can keep GOP support for a bill on the House floor to around 207 votes — short of the 218 needed for a majority in the chamber.
Freedom Caucus members’ fury helped them push Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to his abrupt resignation and prompted Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., to not seek Boehner’s job.
They couldn’t achieve the same with soon-to-be Speaker Paul Ryan.
The Associated Press contributed to this article