WASHINGTON, Oct. 21, 2015 - Republicans appear to have found their new speaker. In a closed-door meeting, House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan agreed to run for the job provided the caucus is united behind him, and he said hell give his colleagues until the end of the week to do that.

Its pretty clear what the answer will be, although members of the hard-line House Freedom Caucus still may press him with some concerns about House process.

Republicans coming out of last nights meeting were jubilant, and they were effusive in their praise of the priorities Ryan laid out, including his pledge to get Republicans off a defensive posture and onto the offensive.

“I hope and pray that we get him to the finish line,” said Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who immediately announced that he was dropping out of the speaker’s race. “That’s the right thing for our conference and the country.”

Ryan essentially forced the 247-member GOP caucus to draft him for the job, and now hes insisting that his colleagues unite around him, so hes put himself in position to have a maximum amount of clout as speaker.

Who wouldnt want to be the speaker with 247 votes? That ought to be the goal where we all get behind him on the floor and give him a fighting chance to be successful, said House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway, who was considering a race for speaker of his own if Ryan didnt run.

Many in agriculture will remember Ryans proposals as chairman of the House Budget Committee to slash crop insurance and commodity subsidies. But in the meeting with his colleagues Ryan pledged to respect the committee process, something he had to do, given the widespread complaints in the caucus that the current leadership was sidestepping House rules.

The speakership is a different job than being Budget chairman, Conaway noted. Im going to give Paul a chance to be the speaker and then develop how he will treat the Ag committee and others. The speaker is a whole different deal. When youre speaker of the entire House you dont speak for yourself, Conaway said.

Farm groups are hoping that having Ryan as speaker could increase the chances that Congress will consider immigration reform in 2017. The chances of that happening in a presidential election year are nil. There has been some grumbling in conservative quarters about Ryan on that issue. But, interestingly, members of the Freedom Caucus met with Ryan privately and didnt raise that issue, according to one lawmaker who was in the meeting, Mark Meadows of North Carolina.

Ryan made it clear in a statement issued after the meeting that he intends to be a visionary speaker, and that he doesnt plan to give up pursuing one of his top priorities - addressing persistent poverty.

That could mean reform to nutrition programs will be on the House agenda. After all, the farm bill will come due for a rewrite in 2018 as USDA is getting results from a landmark pilot project testing varied approaches to getting out-of-work SNAP recipients into jobs and getting higher-paying work for those who are employed.


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