Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL) has confirmed to Breitbart News through a spokeswoman that he is running for Speaker of the House against Ways and Means Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI).
Webster, the former Speaker of the Florida House, told Breitbart News in an emailed statement that he is still running despite the entire Washington establishment pushing for Ryan’s candidacy.
“I am committed to governing in a principled, member-driven manner,” Webster told Breitbart News on Monday evening. “I am running for Speaker because the transformation of the way we do business is possible if we seize this opportunity.”
Several House Republicans—at this time more than 10, perhaps more than 20, and maybe even 30 or more—are planning to support Webster’s candidacy against Ryan’s on the floor of the House of Representatives on Thursday. While anything can change between now and the end of the week, Webster is the only other candidate against Ryan for Speaker—and the only candidate who has received an official endorsement from the House Freedom Caucus. While the Freedom Caucus has not endorsed Ryan—80 percent support from its membership would have been required to do that—it did issue a statement after meeting with him last week that a “supermajority” of its members would be open to a Ryan Speakership.
Unlike Ryan, Webster has very publicly articulated reforms he would make to the House GOP conference structure. Specifically, he told Breitbart News in a recent exclusive interview, he wants to spread power away from the Speaker’s office toward the membership of the House.
“I have one desire: That is to have a principle-based, member-driven Congress. Period. That’s what I want,” Webster said in that Breitbart News exclusive interview. “Really, right now, the default of every legislative body I’ve been to—and I’ve been to a lot of them—is a power-based system as opposed to principle-based. That works too, you can do it that way where a few people at the top of the pyramid make all of the decisions. We’d rather see a flattened down pyramid of power and spread out the base so every member has an opportunity to be successful.”
Ryan made several promises behind closed doors to the Freedom Caucus members but has thus far refused to put any of them in writing or make any of them in public. The Freedom Caucus never rescinded its endorsement of Webster, so technically if any Freedom Caucus member votes for someone other than Webster—like Ryan, especially if Ryan doesn’t put his proposed reforms in writing as he still is refusing to do—they would be violating their rules. That has prompted many conservatives movement-wide to wonder if it is time to disband the Freedom Caucus and replace it with a more effective alternative organization like the Conservative Opportunity Society which is run by Rep. Steve King (R-IA).
Webster, on Monday evening, also sent out a fundraising appeal touting his candidacy to grassroots supporters.
“We took down Boehner,” Webster wrote in the fundraising email. “NOW, the vote to replace Boehner as Speaker of the House is less than TWO days away.”
Webster goes on later in the email to lay out how he has been endorsed by the House Freedom Caucus while Ryan has not. “I’m the only conservative running, and the only person who has been fully endorsed by The Freedom Caucus,” Webster wrote. “We secured a victory in getting Boehner to resign, but that is just the first step in ending Congress’s capitulation to Obama and the Democrats.”
The entire situation is still fluid, and given the explosive dynamics of House GOP politics, anything can happen between now and Thursday’s floor vote for Speaker. Ryan, like House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy before he dropped out, is easily expected to win the nomination of the GOP conference with a bare minimum of 125 votes on Wednesday. But Ryan may—depending on whether Webster can rally enough Republicans around him—run into trouble on the House floor. McCarthy didn’t call off his candidacy until moments before the in-conference vote. McCarthy was running for Speaker until the last possible moment, when he realized he wouldn’t get 218 votes on the House floor—at which point the leadership, Boehner in particular, called off the elections and postponed them indefinitely.
With the ongoing debt ceiling and budget negotiations—an effort to raise the debt ceiling significantly, and an effort to push through a budget deal that ties a future Congress to increased spending limits being pushed by outgoing House Speaker John Boehner—coming barreling down the pike, Ryan could be further jeopardized by those. Ryan has yet to take a position on that deal, something that boldly cuts against his carefully crafted public image of being a conservative reformer and dealmaker. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Barack Obama are also involved in those negotiations with Boehner. Ryan has not been involved in the particulars, but votes on them could potentially come in the House after he would be elected Speaker later this week, so his decision to remain silent is particularly curious.
“He’s not been involved,” Ryan spokesman Brendan Buck replied when asked if Ryan supports the forthcoming deal.
“To my knowledge, an agreement hasn’t even been reached,” Buck added when asked again.
A Reuters report on Monday, however, quotes Reps. Mark Meadows (R-NC), Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) and Jim Jordan (R-OH) as not aiming to hold Ryan accountable for the mess Boehner, McConnell, and Obama have created—even though Ryan could step up and stop it by loudly fighting against it.
Reuters’ David Lawder wrote on Monday:
Leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives’ most influential conservative group told Reuters on Monday it was too late to stop an extension of the federal debt ceiling this week, but they will not hold it against the expected next House Speaker, Paul Ryan. Representatives Mark Meadows, Jim Jordan and Mick Mulvaney, founders of the hard-right Freedom Caucus, told Reuters in an interview that there was not enough time for House Republicans to rally around a list of demands for raising the $18.1 trillion U.S. borrowing limit.
Meadows, the man who is responsible for removing Boehner as Speaker by rallying Republicans around a motion to vacate the chair, said he understands the predicament leadership is in given that there is a Nov. 3 deadline to lift the debt ceiling.
“To make any kind of meaningful longer-term strategy … I think it is too late,” Meadows said. “So I don’t see that as something that happens this time, but I do see that potentially in all future debt ceiling negotiations.”
Mulvaney was much more direct in his defense of Ryan on this matter. “This is going the way that the current leadership wants it to go,” Mulvaney said. “Paul (Ryan) probably won’t be blamed for whatever happens tomorrow, because it’s clearly Boehner’s baby.”
Jordan, the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, isn’t quoted in the article. But when each of their offices was given a chance to respond to the Reuters piece by Breitbart News, Mulvaney’s and Jordan’s didn’t challenge the framing of it. Meadows did. Meadows told Breitbart News:
I have yet to even see the actual text of the budget proposal, but the decision to once again wait until the very last minute to propose a solution is unacceptable and a non-starter. American families wouldn’t handle their family finances this way, and Congress shouldn’t either. Unfortunately, I fully expect for this deal to be jammed through the House with majority Democratic support in order to pass. I encourage my Republican colleagues to oppose it.
However this matter regarding the budget and debt ceiling deal go down—and others, like process changes in the House conference that Webster has clearly articulated and agreed to, but Ryan has thus far refused to put in writing—could change the way the political class in Washington expects the speakership race to go.
“Congressman Meadows hasn’t committed his support to any individual [in the speakership race],” Meadows spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said in an email. “Discussions are still ongoing about process changes and reforms that must be addressed by any speaker.”
Ryan, during a behind-closed-doors meeting with the House Freedom Caucus last week, agreed to many of the changes the Freedom Caucus says they want. But he has refused to put any of them in writing so far, and has demanded that conservatives agree to alterations of the motion to vacate the chair rule that Meadows used to remove Boehner as Speaker—the only way members of the House have to hold a Speaker drunken with power in check. That check and balance was first put in the House Rules by U.S. Founding Father Thomas Jefferson—the third president of the United States and the literal author of the Declaration of Independence from King George. Every Speaker in U.S. history from Boehner to Nancy Pelosi to Sam Rayburn to Denny Hastert to Tip O’Neill to Henry Clay to Joseph Cannon to Nick Longworth and more have operated under it.
While most members in the Freedom Caucus have said that any changes to the so-called Jefferson Rule would be a “non-starter” for any Speakership candidate, including Ryan, Ryan continues to demand changes to it, but he has said he will put them off until later. Ryan could, after he’s elected Speaker, band a handful of Republicans together with most of the Democrats to get 218 votes to change the Jefferson Rule on the House floor—a possibility that senior congressional sources tell Breitbart News has been discussed. Ryan has not, despite protestations from the House Freedom Caucus, agreed to rescind a demand his spokesman Buck laid out very clearly last week in writing.
Ryan, Buck wrote in an email to reporters, “believes there needs to be a change to the process for a motion to vacate the chair.”
“No matter who is speaker, they cannot be successful with this weapon pointed at them all the time,” Buck continued, confirming that Ryan can’t handle the checks and balances every House Speaker in U.S. history has endured.
Since the Freedom Caucus can’t even get something on that in writing from Ryan—never mind any of other reforms he supposedly promised behind closed doors—this week could end up being a bumpy ride for Ryan’s efforts to ascend. Ryan clearly believes he will win the Speakership, though, as he’s already scheduled a victory party on Thursday for House GOP members and their spouses.