paul ryan
U.S. Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) smiles following a meeting with the Freedom Caucus, a semi-secret group of Republicans who are leveraging their collective votes to steer the outcome of the selection of the Speaker of the House. With a tepid nod from the Freedom Caucus, Ryan is expected to secure the job. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

Paul Ryan is expected to run for Congressional Speaker of the House following tepid approval of the Republican party’s most conservative clique, the Freedom Caucus. If selected, Ryan would replace outgoing Speaker John Boehner who announced his retirement last month.

Republicans are eager to bring in new leadership ahead of a congressional debt fight, and Ryan is the most obvious choice to head the party: he’s a respected policy wonk who has proven that he can stand on a national platform. In 2012, he was Mitt Romney’s vice-presidential nominee.

Yet the Wisconsin lawmaker isn’t willing to take the job on Boehner’s previous terms. He’s said he won’t do as much fundraising, and he’s not willing to fight with the caucuses inside of his own party.

Caucuses are semi-formal subgroups of legislators who coalesce around issues, ideologies, ethnic identities and other forces that move within the big tents of the Democratic and Republican parties.

Which caucus would fight Ryan? The very Freedom Caucus that has given Ryan their blessing (65 percent ) but not their endorsement (an 80 percent majority). We can’t tell you how many members voted for Ryan because the Caucus membership is semi-secret. That’s right: not all of the voting Freedom Caucus has publically declared their participation in the group.

This isn’t meant to hide their work from voters, but, according to a Roll Call source, from the GOP leadership itself. If Ryan takes the job, he’ll be in the dark about a group of fellow Republicans who could oust him from his job.

Despite the handful of “secret” members, most Freedom Caucus has publically declared their membership. Is there a Freedom Caucus member in your state? You can check in the map below by mousing over your congressional district.

[The embed for this map is broken, but you can check it out here]

You might remember the Freedom Caucus as the group that pressured Boehner to shut down the government in February over Obama’s executive actions on immigration. Some have called them nihilists. Conservatives call this a myth.

As Pew points out, Freedom Caucus members (that we know about!) are more conservative on average, more willing to shut down the government, and less willing to facilitate bipartisan bargains like 2013 comprehensive immigration reform.

Ryan, by contrast, actually wants to pass legislation, and to transform the party to it’s pre-Obama days as a productive body with more words in its vocabulary than “no.”

True to form, Ryan has a achieved a sort of compromise with the Freedom Caucus. He’s offered a more open debate and amendment process, which would allow individual members a greater voice on the floor.

But he’s also asked to raise the minimum number of votes required to have him removed as speaker. That would take away the guillotine that hovered for years above Boehner’s head, largely propped up by the Freedom Caucus.

Did the Freedom Caucus blink, or is the Speaker losing his grip before he even starts? We won’t know until serious policy concerns come into play whether this is a concession or a consolidation of the Freedom Caucus’ power.

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