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House Freedom Caucus almost endorses Paul Ryan, but doesn't quite get there

Your next speaker of the House?
Your next speaker of the House?
Alex Wong/Getty
Andrew Prokop is a senior politics correspondent at Vox, covering the White House, elections, and political scandals and investigations. He’s worked at Vox since the site’s launch in 2014, and before that, he worked as a research assistant at the New Yorker’s Washington, DC, bureau.

Paul Ryan said Tuesday night that he'd only run for speaker of the House if every major caucus in the party — including the hard-line Freedom Caucus — endorsed him.

On Wednesday night, that sort of happened, and sort of didn't.

After a meeting, some prominent Freedom Caucus members said that a supermajority of its members would support Ryan — two-thirds, Rep. Raúl Labrador told reporters.

However, that is not enough for a formal endorsement. According to the Freedom Caucus's rules, 80 percent of its members must agree for that to happen. And Ryan didn't get there. Around 13 of the caucus's 40-odd members (there's no public membership list) wouldn't back him — he was just five votes or so shy of the endorsement.

The ball is in Ryan's court now

What happens next is unclear. Technically, Ryan's conditions have not been met — but they almost were. He could simply choose to interpret this supermajority support as an "endorsement," and run for speaker.

Indeed, top Freedom Caucus members insisted after the meeting that Ryan would have the 218 votes necessary to be elected speaker on the floor — signifying that they wouldn't make trouble for him.

And the official Freedom Caucus release heaped praise on Ryan — but also stressed that its members wouldn't necessarily accept Ryan's "preconditions for serving," which notably include a rules change that would dilute their power:

So the question is whether all this is good enough for Ryan. Does he think this is sufficient to pave the way to a more functional House of Representatives? Or does he think that without full support and without the rules change, he's doomed to end up like Boehner did?

Update: Ryan's response seems to imply he'll treat this as an endorsement and run for speaker.

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