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Will House Republicans line up behind Paul Ryan?

Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan says he’s willing to step up as Speaker of the House, but only if divided groups of conservatives back him first. Political director Lisa Desjardins joins Judy Woodruff from Capitol Hill to discuss how members of the House GOP are reacting to Ryan’s requests.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    From a decision made to another one pending.

    Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan has told his fellow Republicans that he is willing to serve as speaker of the House of Representatives, but only if divided groups of conservatives endorse him first.

    Political director Lisa Desjardins reports on a busy day in the search for a leader.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    The could-be speaker laid out his demands Tuesday night: unified party backing and family time.

    REP. PAUL RYAN (R), Wisconsin: I have shown my colleagues what I think success looks like, what I think it takes to unify and lead and how my family commitments comes first. I have left this decision in their hands.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    Paul Ryan's clear ultimatum landed in a packed, wild Capitol this morning. Reporters surrounded lawmakers in the conservative House Freedom Caucus, the rebellious group that Ryan says must sign on for him to run.

    But members like Alabama's Mo Brooks were cool to the idea.

    REP. MO BROOKS (R), Alabama: I don't think there is any question that a significant number of members of the Republican Conference have coerced, cajoled, induced Paul Ryan to run for speaker of the House when he doesn't want that job.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    Idaho's Raul Labrador is another Freedom Caucus member.

    REP. RAUL LABRADOR (R), Idaho: There's a lot of people who can do it. Jason Chaffetz would be a very good speaker of the House.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    While many members avoided questions and sought out the elevators, current Speaker John Boehner pushed for stability and Ryan.

    REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), Speaker of the House: Listen, I think Paul is going to get the support that he is looking for. I thought he laid out a very clear vision for how he would run the speakership. And I thought the members responded very well to it.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    Moderate Peter King of New York was less sure that Ryan would get enough support, and therefore more worried.

    REP. PETER KING (R), New York: I don't see who else it could be. If it's not Paul Ryan, then I think it's a disaster.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    Already, some outside conservatives are on the attack. A group called the Tea Party Patriots released a video highlighting Ryan's support of the 2008 stimulus bill.

  • REP. PAUL RYAN:

    This bill offends my principles, but I'm going to vote for this bill in order to preserve my principles.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    That underlines the divide for Republicans, who face a Friday deadline set by Ryan. The Wisconsin representative is using his leverage to see if he can take command without becoming a political casualty.

  • REP. PAUL RYAN:

    What I told members is, if you can agree to these requests, and if I can truly be a unifying figure, then I will gladly serve.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And Lisa joins us from the Capitol.

    So, Lisa, this doesn't sound like a done deal. It's nightfall there. What are you hearing?

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    That's right.

    The members of the House Freedom Caucus just got out of a meeting with Paul Ryan. Congressman Ryan had very little to say, but he told our Quinn Bowman, our producer here, the meeting went well. He said it was a nice meeting. But that's it.

    We did get more information from the Freedom Caucus members, and I think you put it the best way there, that this is still up in the air, Judy. They are going to meet again later tonight. They may vote tonight and that vote may be the most significant part of this fight this week. The vote could be tomorrow as well.

    But the reason that vote is very difficult for Mr. Ryan is that the House of Freedom Caucus has their own internal rules, Judy, where they will only support a candidate if 80 percent of their members agree to do so. You are talking then about 80 percent of the most conservative members of the House of Representatives, the members who wanted John Boehner out and some of whom are pretty openly saying they are not so sure about Paul Ryan either.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, we know the rest of the Republican membership in the House of Representatives supports Paul Ryan, but how influential is anybody in the outside with these Freedom Caucus members? I mean, who do they listen to? Who can influence them?

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    I think these are members who listen most of all to their core constituency.

    But that does include not just the voters in their districts, who do skew very conservative, that is why they have been elected, but who also — they also listen to, say, conservative talk radio and the Tea Party.

    As we put in the package, some Tea Party groups have already come out against Paul Ryan today. And that's something that is a factor in these members' decisions the next couple of days.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Lisa, you were telling me just a few minutes ago that there is now some discussion about trying to deal with raising the debt ceiling before there's a vote on a new speaker. What about that?

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    This is a very tricky game of chess happening right now. Not only is the House trying to bring in a new leader, but they're also trying to manage three different crises coming soon.

    And speaking to a top Republican aide in leadership currently told me tonight that they would like to pass an increase in the debt ceiling before there is a new speaker, before next week's vote, which may include Mr. Ryan. And that vote, Judy, on the debt ceiling could come as soon as this week. It's something that those in power now in the House want to do before any new speaker comes into power.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    But we also know it's something the members of the Freedom Caucus, most conservative members, presumably, wouldn't want.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    Yes, that's right.

    And here is where you get into the complexity of this situation. The House Freedom Caucus realizes that they don't have potentially another viable candidate outside of Paul Ryan, but at the same time, they're trying to get, I think, as much out of the situation as they can, trying to get as many guarantees as they can from him about their own agenda.

    And that includes trying to get as many concessions from Democrats on the debt ceiling. So it's complicated. The debt ceiling might be a factor here in their discussions with Mr. Ryan, but, moreover, they're questioning whether they think he will actually change things in the House. One congressman, Raul Labrador, said to me and other reporters, you know, we all like Paul Ryan, but this isn't about personality. We're just not sure he can change things because he hasn't changed things yet in the House.

    You follow that line of thinking, if you are outside of that conservative caucus, Judy, and it still doesn't make it clear what the endgame is. I think tonight could be an important night. We will see what the Freedom Caucus does. And, of course, Friday is the deadline that Mr. Ryan set as to whether he will be viable to run for speaker.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Lisa Desjardins watching it all very closely at the Capitol, thank you.

  • LISA DESJARDINS:

    Thank you.

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