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Paul Ryan Sort Of Joins The House Speaker Race


House Republicans finally have the leader many say they want. He says they just have to prove they really want him.


Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin says he is willing to become the next speaker of the house. He is widely considered the only lawmaker with the stature for that job after John Boehner stepped down and his deputy stepped aside.

MONTAGNE: But Ryan says he will run only with conditions. The most important condition, he says, House Republicans must unite behind him first. Attention now turns to a group of conservatives who must decide whether to back Ryan. NPR's Ailsa Chang reports.

AILSA CHANG, BYLINE: In just 12 days, Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan went from a no to a maybe to OK but only if - that is only if his fellow Republicans will rally behind him, including those who prompted the current speaker to resign.


PAUL RYAN: This is not a job I've ever wanted, I've ever sought. I'm in the job I've always wanted here in Congress. I came to the conclusion that this is a very dire moment - not just for Congress, not just for the Republican Party but for our country. And I think our country is in desperate need of leadership.

CHANG: But for Ryan, there are considerations beyond politics.


RYAN: Like many of you, Jan and I have children who are in the formative, foundational years of their lives.

CHANG: And he said he feared exposing them to the special Washington nastiness that the speaker of the house gets to feel up close. But Ryan said he had little choice.


RYAN: My greatest worry is the consequence of not stepping up, of someday having my own kids ask me, when the stakes were so high, why didn't you do all you could do? Why didn't you stand and fight for my future when you had a chance to do so? None of us wants to hear that question.

CHANG: And so Ryan is in - sort of. He won't give up his family time so will spend less time on the road fundraising than past speakers. And he wants near unanimous support from his most conservative colleagues. He's given them until the end of this week to decide. But they say their support depends on how much Ryan can decentralize power in the House. Here's Mark Meadows of North Carolina.


MARK MEADOWS: Really what we're talking about is an inclusive process that really allows every member to have the same influence on the legislative process as anybody else.

CHANG: In other words, hard-line conservatives who now feel excluded by the leadership want a bigger say on how the House is run. But moderate Republicans, like Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, say Ryan told his caucus he won't bargain to win the speaker's gavel.


CHARLIE DENT: He was also very clear he did not want to change the rules or procedures of the House to satisfy any one group or faction. Very clear about that, and I think that was a very positive thing that he said.

CHANG: And another thing, said Ryan - no more threats from hard-liners about ousting the speaker. Republican Jason Chaffetz of Utah, who won't stay in the speaker's race if Ryan jumps in, agreed that past threats to kick out speaker John Boehner only weakened their caucus.


JASON CHAFFETZ: The point was very well-taken. The idea that this political weapon can just be hanging out there in perpetuity is not healthy to leading and getting things done.

CHANG: If the most conservative Republicans decide they can't get behind Ryan, he says he's totally happy to stay right where he is. Ailsa Chang, NPR News, the Capitol.

MONTAGNE: And elsewhere in today's program, we'll hear from one of those most conservative House Republicans, who will have to decide whether to back Paul Ryan. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.
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