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Vote Analysis: Ryan, Freedom Caucus Increasingly at Odds

HFC founding members Jim Jordan, left, and Raúl R. Labrador likely find Ryan's voting trend disconcerting. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Paul D. Ryan, who was chosen Wednesday as the Republican nominee for speaker, has in recent years steadily drifted away from the House Freedom Caucus on major votes, according to a CQ Roll Call analysis.  

As the Wisconsin Republican prepares to take the speaker’s gavel from the retiring John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, there are questions about his ability to manage the fractious GOP conference. Specifically, all eyes are on his ability to keep the hard-line conservatives from revolting again and again on legislation, such as the two-year budget deal, they deem ideologically objectionable. CQ Roll Call analyzed key votes from 2012 through 2014, and found Ryan increasingly at odds with members of what is now the Freedom Caucus. The data adds fuel to lawmakers and experts who predict Ryan’s ascension to speaker likely will do little to improve relations inside the Republican Party’s "big tent."  

ryan-vote-trends There are several common threads throughout the data. One is a tendency for Ryan and the conservative faction to vote against one another on measures to raise the country’s borrowing limit, and another is massive spending bills to keep the government running. On the latter issue, Ryan again broke with the HFC late last month when he voted in favor of a government shutdown-averting continuing resolution most of the conservative group opposed.  

The results of the review shed a light on Boehner’s desire to "clean the barn" before leaving Congress by striking a two-year budget deal that includes a debt-ceiling hike until March 2017. The House passed it 266-167 on Wednesday  

"I didn't want him to walk into a dirty barn full of you-know-what," Boehner said Tuesday.  

Likely throwing a bone to the conservatives, Ryan earlier this week said the process used to strike the budget deal "stinks." Boehner told reporters he agrees, but said "there wasn't any choice." He added the alternative was a clean debt ceiling and a government shutdown.  

The conservative group did not organize into the HFC until this Congress, so CQ Roll Call analyzed voting data of its now-members. The result showed two years in which Ryan and the eventual Freedom Caucus members often voted together.  

For instance, in 2011, Ryan and the conservatives voted together 85.7 percent of the time. He diverged with most Freedom Caucus members on a patent overhaul measure, as well as on a more controversial measure to raise the country’s borrowing limit. In the same year, Ryan voted with a majority of the Republican Conference the same percentage of the time. Among the votes on which he broke with most of the GOP conference in 2012 was a balanced budget amendment; on that measure, he joined most of the Freedom Caucus members.  

The pinnacle of the Ryan-conservative voting record was 2012, when he voted with most of the conservative group on every key measure.  

From there, the 2012 vice presidential candidate and the far-right portion of the conference began to diverge.  

He voted with Freedom Caucus members 73.3 percent of the time in 2013, first breaking with most of them on a measure to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. Ryan later supported a farm programs bill that most of the conservatives opposed. That year concluded with the likely speaker and the group voting differently than all but seven Freedom Caucus members on a year-end budget deal and differently than every eventual one on a tax measure.  

The divergence continued in 2014, and might help explain why some HFC members were reluctant to immediately endorse the speaker-in-waiting. Ryan joined the conservative bloc on only 66.6 percent of key votes. In contrast, he voted with a majority of the Republican conference 93.3 percent of the time on those measures.  

Among those measures was a fiscal 2014 omnibus spending bill, another farm programs measure, and two late-year spending bills.  

Emma Dumain and Ryan Kelly contributed to this report. Related: Ryan Staffing Up for Speaker's Office Grass Roots to Ryan: Show, Don't Tell, on Budget Deal Can Paul Ryan Keep the Manure Out of the House Barn? See photos, follies, HOH Hits and Misses and more at Roll Call's new video site. Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.