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Photographer: Chip Somodevilla

Paul Ryan Must Set Two Conditions

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg View columnist. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.
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The Washington Post’s Robert Costa reports that John Boehner has asked Paul Ryan to be speaker of the House. My View colleague Ramesh Ponnuru reports that Ryan is seen as the only member who can bridge the divide between those who supported Boehner and those who wanted to dump him.

Ryan is, Costa says, thinking about it.

My two cents? He should not take the job unless he gets two things: Public support from House Freedom Caucus members, and strong private assurances that they’ll back off on insisting on a debt-limit confrontation and a government shutdown showdown.

The problem for Ryan or any other new speaker is that the basic conditions have not changed. Whether there’s a shutdown or a government default or not, eventually the debt limit will be raised and the government will be funded. And whenever that happens, both the speaker and Barack Obama will support whatever deal is made. That means the new speaker will wind up exactly where Boehner has been: a squish, a sellout, a Republican In Name Only.

Why would Paul Ryan want to turn himself into that?

But if he can minimize those confrontations (perhaps by raising the debt limit and completing a deal on this year’s government funding before Boehner steps down), at least he could delay and somewhat reduce the effect.

The House Freedom Caucus may want chaos, which is what they'll get if they refuse to support their party’s candidate for speaker. Or they may just want a different speaker candidate. I do know, however, that Ryan would be nuts to accept the job unless those two conditions are met.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Katy Roberts at kroberts29@bloomberg.net