-- With lawmakers back in Washington after a 10-day recess, all eyes are on Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, as he weighs a House speaker bid.
Sources close to Ryan said the Wisconsin Republican is now open to a run for speaker, but does not plan to make a final decision until he talks to more of his Republican colleagues. For weeks, Ryan and his spokesman have said he is not running for speaker.
Members could question Ryan about his plans at a conference meeting this evening. Ryan is not expected to make a final decision on a speaker run tonight, his spokesperson said.
The well-regarded chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee is seen as the consensus candidate to succeed John Boehner and the Republican best positioned to bring the fractured conference together.
Ryan has repeatedly refused to go after the top job in Congress, but began considering a run after House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said he would drop his bid to replace Boehner.
“He feels the pull of the country -- people encouraging him and saying he’d be a great choice,” said Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Wisconsin, who shared a flight home with Ryan last week.
“But he also feels the pull of his family, and his passions,” he added.
Ryan, who spent the recess at home with his family, has young children at home in Janesville. As speaker, he’d be expected to fundraise for the party, though colleagues have offered to help him shoulder that burden. The promotion could also make it more difficult for him to pursue entitlement and tax reform.
Should he decide to jump in, Ryan would need the support of the 40-odd members of the House Freedom Caucus, who helped force Boehner’s retirement and derail McCarthy’s speaker bid.
The group has endorsed little-known Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Florida, in the speaker’s race -- to win Boehner’s gavel in a vote on the House floor.
Members of the caucus, who have expressed interest in Ryan running for speaker, want the House and conference run differently.
“Paul has to convince people he’s not John Boehner 2.0,” said Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-South Carolina, a Freedom Caucus leader.
They’d like to see greater representation in leadership -- including subcommittee chairmanships and on the steering committee -- and more bills on the House floor via committees, among other proposals.
Ryan met with leaders of the group late Tuesday afternoon.
If he decides against a run for speaker, more than a dozen Republicans are ready to launch bids in what would be a free-for-all race.
Congress has to raise the debt ceiling by Nov. 3 or risk a federal government default. Lawmakers also have to pass additional government funding by Dec. 11.
For now, those deadlines remain John Boehner’s. The Ohio Republican, who had planned on leaving Congress on Oct. 30, has agreed to stay on until his replacement is selected.