WASHINGTON (CNN) — Rep. Paul Ryan has enough support from a key group of House conservatives to be the next speaker — if he still wants the job.
In a closed-door session, more than 70% of the House Freedom Caucus voted in favor of Ryan’s candidacy. But that is short of the 80% needed for an official endorsement, something Ryan has demanded.
Ryan issued a statement via Twitter following that meeting, saying he is grateful for the support of the supermajority of the House Freedom Caucus.
Ryan has said all along he wants to be the “unity” candidate for House speaker. He met Wednesday with the Freedom Caucus — the group of roughly 40 conservatives who were instrumental in driving out Speaker John Boehner and throwing the leadership race into disarray.
Ryan told them in private what he’s been telling everyone in public: he wasn’t going to beg for their vote. Ryan wants to be the consensus pick to be speaker, and if the Freedom Caucus wants to get in his way, he’ll let them.
“If I can be a unifying figure in our conference, I’m willing to step up and do that, it’s just that simple,” Ryan told reporters upon leaving the Capitol. “If not then it’s OK, I’ll go back to Ways and Means.”
Freedom Caucus members said it’s all up to Ryan.
“Paul appears to have sufficient support to become the next speaker of the House,” said Rep. Justin Amash, R-Michigan.
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