U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Monroe, said this morning that he will support Rep. Paul Ryan for speaker, meaning the Georgia Republican delegation appears to be all together on this week’s vote.
Hice was not sold on Ryan, of Wisconsin, when the arch-conservative House Freedom Caucus met last week, and he was one of a handful who stuck behind Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Fla. But in subsequent meetings, Hice said Ryan agreed to conservative demands.
For example, a Ryan-desired rules change that would prevent a small group of Republicans from combining with Democrats to force out the speaker — a key pressure point for Speaker John Boehner’s departure — will not happen anytime soon. “At least for now, that’s totally off the table,” Hice said. So the Freedom Caucus keeps its leverage.
“Most people are aware that he’s going to be the next speaker unless something unforeseen happens, so my focus has been on hearing from Paul and talking with him, and I have been extremely pleased with those conversations. …
“We’ve received some solid promises for genuine institutional reform, and at the end of the day that’s what we’re after, some changes around here. …
“Now is a time for unity. I think it’s a time for us to come together. I think the American people want that, and I know on this end there have been tremendous efforts taken to come to that.”
Among the promised changes, Hice said, is a commitment to keeping a “majority of the majority” as a rule for putting bills on the floor. That means not allowing Democrats to carry bills with a handful of Republicans, as is expected to happen this week on a debt ceiling hike and budget deal. Hice said Ryan also committed to a less leadership-driven process that allows rank-and-file members more opportunity to bring bills to the floor.
Publicly backing Ryan is a big move for Hice. For one, Hice’s predecessor, former Rep. Paul Broun — who’s perpetually rumored to be re-entering the political fray — is drumming up donations for an online effort to “Fire Paul Ryan.”
Secondly, the biggest foes to Ryan’s ascension have been in conservative talk radio — just ask fellow Freedom Caucus member Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville — and Hice’s previous profession was conservative talk radio host. Hice’s message to his former media colleagues was, essentially, trust us:
“All I know is what conversations I’ve had with him, meetings I’ve had with him, commitments he has brought to the table that I am comfortable with. If we do these things — that I am committed to doing — I think a lot of the opposing views will dissipate with time.”
And if Ryan doesn’t follow through, there’s always the “motion to vacate the chair” still in place. Said Hice:
“That’s something that Jefferson gave us a long time ago, and it’s there for a purpose. Again, that’s off the table for now, and I’m glad for that. But we’ll deal with that if and when the time ever arises for it.”