by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Fresh off a week of intrigue that saw him emerge all-but-assured of succeeding Speaker John Boehner, Paul Ryan met with the House Tea Party Caucus on Friday morning.
His message, according to the caucus’s chairman, Kansas Republican Tim Huelskamp?
“The culture of intimidation is over.”
Ryan’s comments to the Tea Party caucus built on remarks he made during a private meeting with the House Freedom Caucus on Wednesday. In the aftermath of that meeting, discussion of changes to a motion that lets rank-and file members attempt to depose the speaker — a key, unresolved sticking point between Ryan and the HFC — got most of the ink. But part of the closed-door session also revolved around HFC members’ complaints about the Boehner leadership team’s harsh treatment of dissenters. Though it was a potentially combustible conversation, given Ryan’s history with some of the caucus members, it turned out to be a moment of strength for him.
HFC members gave Ryan several examples of retaliation in the meeting. He expressed surprise at some of the stories, such as word that the National Republican Congressional Committee has been denying campaign funding to Representative Rod Blum (R., Iowa) in response to his votes against leadership. “He seemed flabbergasted by that,” one HFC member says. Ryan assured the HFC that he hadn’t been privy to most of the outgoing regime’s decisions to punish members, and expressed a desire to do things differently going forward. “He kept saying ‘I want to start with a clean slate for everybody,’” says a second HFC member. “And I think that really is what he wants to do and put all this nitpicking behind us.”