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Ryan 'All In' to Become US House Speaker

  • VOA News

Rep. Paul Ryan, R- Wis., speaks at a news conference following a House Republican meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Oct. 20, 2015.

Rep. Paul Ryan, R- Wis., speaks at a news conference following a House Republican meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Oct. 20, 2015.

U.S. Representative Paul Ryan says he is “all in” to become House speaker after obtaining the support of both mainstream and conservative Republicans in the chamber.

Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, sent a letter to his colleagues Thursday evening describing himself as “ready and eager” to be speaker.

The congressman had volunteered reluctantly for the post, but said he would take it only if he obtained an endorsement from an 80 percent majority of his fellow Republican representatives.

Part of Ryan’s reluctance may have been related to the fact that he will have to give up his chairmanship of the prestigious House Ways and Means Committee to become speaker.

In the past 24 hours, Ryan won the support of three key Republican caucuses, passing his toughest hurdle Wednesday evening when the ultraconservative Freedom Caucus, composed of 40 lawmakers, agreed to back him with a large majority that was expected to reach 80 percent.

"Paul is a policy entrepreneur who has developed conservative reforms dealing with a wide variety of subjects," the group said in a written statement announcing the decision, "and he has promised to be an ideas-focused speaker who will advance limited government principles and devolve power to the membership."

On Thursday, Ryan got the support of the Republican Study Committee and the more moderate Tuesday Group.

"I pledged to you that if I could be a unifying figure, then I would serve — I would go all in,” Ryan wrote. "After talking with so many of you, and hearing your words of encouragement, I believe we are ready to move forward as one united team.”

Current House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, who is stepping down October 30 under fire from conservative House members, has set a nominating vote for next Wednesday and a vote in the full House for the next day.

Ryan acknowledged in his letter that there are severe challenges ahead, including raising the country’s debt limit and reaching a budget deal by mid-December.

But he said he also was looking forward to promoting conservative causes. "And we can show the country what a common-sense conservative agenda looks like," he wrote.

Boehner's rough road

Boehner had faced drama, showdowns and clashes with hard-line members many times over the past five years since Republicans took control of the House, just barely averting a default on the national debt in 2011 and triggering a government shutdown in 2013.

Just recently, some conservatives had threatened to not vote for a federal spending bill unless funding was cut to the women's reproductive health group Planned Parenthood, which also performs abortions.

The leadership crisis deepened when Boehner's second-in-command, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, withdrew his candidacy for the post after it was obvious he would not have the support of the Freedom Caucus.

Boehner and other Republican leaders then turned to Ryan, believing he would gain support of the entire Republican membership.

Ryan laid out a list of demands to the membership before he would agree to run for speaker, including doing away with the procedure for "vacating the chair," a technical maneuver that can be used by other members of Congress to oust a sitting House speaker.

The procedure has become a powerful way for the Freedom Caucus to enforce its agenda, but in Ryan's view it has also become a destabilizing influence for the Republican Party.

Under the U.S. Constitution, the speaker of the House of Representatives is second in the presidential line of succession, behind the vice president.

WATCH: Earlier Video From VOA's Katherine Gypson.

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