*There were conditions attached, first and foremost that he would only serve as a “consensus” speaker with support from across the conference. This irked some of the conservatives who brought down Boehner and McCarthy. But ultimately a clear majority of House Freedom Caucus members pledged their support to Ryan Wednesday night, and in return the Wisconsin congressman made it known he would continue his quest for the speakership. He is now a virtual lock to be elected House speaker.
According to interviews with friends and allies in his inner circle, most of whom described his recent deliberations on condition of anonymity, Ryan became convinced over the past twelve days that without a consensus leader, the House would descend into an anarchy so intractable that it could sabotage the GOP’s congressional majorities, its presidential nominee, and the future of the party itself.
**Ryan’s initial, categorical opposition to becoming speaker melted under the heat of dozens of frantic phone calls from Republican luminaries — including senators up for reelection, leaders of GOP-allied outside groups, and representatives from presidential campaigns — warning that further dysfunction in the House would do the party widespread damage next November, and perhaps for years to come. Some of Ryan’s closest allies called to warn him that his career-defining goals — entitlement and tax reform — would be impossible to achieve with the House in turmoil.
**In the sweep of Ryan’s career, it makes sense that appeals to the collective good of the party were what finally changed his mind. He rejected pleas to run for president in 2012, only to accept Romney’s VP offer out of a sense of duty, citing his concern for the country’s direction. Once a proudly unflinching partisan, he returned to Congress from the 2012 campaign convinced that the GOP brand was defined by rigid opposition, and he set out to tackle poverty, immigration, and the budget on a bipartisan basis. (Those efforts, of course, earned him contempt from the same conservatives who had celebrated his selection as Romney’s running mate in 2012, and they laid the foundation for today’s conservative opposition to a Ryan speakership.)
**When it came time for Ryan to address his colleagues and the media on Tuesday, twelve days after he’d been set to nominate McCarthy as speaker, he emphasized that those family considerations were non-negotiable. He wouldn’t be traveling on the fundraising circuit 40 weekends per year, and he wouldn’t subject himself to the constant threat of an ouster. He would only accept the job if everyone — including the ideologically uncompromising conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus — was on board.
Ryan gave his colleagues until Friday to decide. And immediately on Wednesday some of Ryan’s allies — including Hensarling, who is popular and influential with the conference’s right flank — began lobbying conservative members to support Ryan for the speakership.
**Interestingly, the most important player in the drama might be Freedom Caucus chairman Jim Jordan, who in 2013 teamed up with Ryan and Hensarling to convince Boehner to keep sequestration in place as a way of ensuring guaranteed spending cuts. Ryan gave up some of those cuts in his budget compromise with Patty Murray later that year — a break that left Jordan steaming and was the beginning of a split in their alliance.
**Of course, Ryan never worried about nurturing relationships in order to get elected speaker one day. His goal was always to chair Ways and Means. And in fact, he hinted last fall that his plan was to take over that committee, serve three terms, then retire from Congress at age 50, still “young enough where I can go do something else with my life.”
If conservatives don’t support him, Ryan can stick to that plan. If they do, Speaker Ryan might have to stick around a while — if only for the good of the party.