By Mike DeBonis and Robert Costa,
Hard-line conservatives cleared a path Wednesday for Rep. Paul Ryan to become House speaker when some of his most disgruntled fellow Republicans signaled that they would support his bid for the top job.
The decision to back Ryan by the House Freedom Caucus, a group of nearly 40 lawmakers that has risen in power and stature since its founding this year, came after the Ways and Means Committee chairman spent much of his day courting its support.
The group stopped short of an official endorsement, which would have required 80 percent support, but members said a “supermajority” of the caucus would back a Ryan bid for speaker. Ryan set out a series of conditions Tuesday under which he would consider seeking the speakership; the most challenging of those was unity among all of the House Republican Conference’s warring factions. The support of the Freedom Caucus was regarded as one of the huge obstacles to meeting that condition.
In a statement, Ryan said he did not view the lack of a formal endorsement as a rejection: “I believe this is a positive step toward a unified Republican team.”
Rep. Raúl R. Labrador (R-Idaho), a co-founder of the Freedom Caucus, emerged from a lengthy evening meeting Wednesday and said there was “consensus that we need to move forward because it’s time for the conference to unite.”
“It’s time for everybody to work together and make the Republican Party stronger,” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to do even with the reservations that some people have about Paul Ryan being speaker.”
[Paul Ryan tells House Republicans he’s willing to run, if conditions are met]
Ryan could still decide not to serve as speaker, and some conservative activists have engaged in a vigorous campaign to cast doubt on his record, which might give some members cold feet before votes are cast next week.
But the level of Freedom Caucus support represents the first thaw in the increasingly frosty relationship between tea party conservatives and establishment Republicans. It also paves the way for fresh GOP leadership heading into imminent clashes with President Obama over the national debt and federal spending.
The Freedom Caucus met with Ryan for an hour in the Capitol earlier in the day. Many …Read More

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