Updated 3:19 p.m. | Republicans nominated Rep. Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., for speaker Wednesday, all but ensuring he is selected to succeed John A. Boehner in Thursday's vote on the House floor.
Ryan was backed by the vast majority of the conference in the secret ballot election, receiving 200 votes, according to an official readout of the results. Forty-three members voted for Rep. Daniel Webster, a Florida Republican whose supporters think Ryan is too enmeshed in the establishment, while Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., each received a single vote.
Standing alongside GOP leaders after the meeting, Ryan gave a brief statement to reporters and took no questions.
"This begins a new day in the House of Representatives. ... Tomorrow, we are going to turn the page," he said. "We are going to move forward, we are going to unify."
The smooth proceedings on Ryan's home turf in the Ways and Means Committee room offered a drastic contrast with the nomination meeting three weeks ago, when McCarthy shocked his colleagues by removing himself from the running. That threatened Boehner's planned resignation at the end of this week and threw the future of the conference leadership into chaos.
But Ryan's decision last week to vie for the post and his wide support within the conference has allowed Boehner to stick to his timetable. The last hurdle is garnering a majority of votes on the floor Thursday, when each member present will stand to announce their choice.
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., said Ryan would get 218 votes — the majority threshold if every member votes — or more. To do so, he'll need some of the 43 Webster supporters to switch their vote on the floor, since Democrats, with a few exceptions, will cast votes for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Rep. Raúl R. Labrador, R-Idaho, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said he voted in conference for Webster but will back Ryan on the floor.
"He's our nominee."
Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., another HFC member, said the amount of Webster support surprised him. He noted there are 40 members in the HFC and the majority of them voted for Ryan, meaning Webster must have pulled votes from elsewhere in the conference.
One of those non-HFC votes came from Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., who said he would back Webster again on the floor Thursday but wasn't sure how many others would too. HFC member Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., voted for Webster but wouldn't say who will get his vote Thursday.
Despite that uncertainty, preparations are well underway with the assumption Ryan claims the gavel, including his hire of a chief of staff from K Street to run the speaker's office as members jockey to replace him as Ways and Means chairman.
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