Hice joins rest of Georgia Republicans in backing Ryan for speaker

By Dan Malloy, ajc.com Staff Writer

U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Monroe, says he will support U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan for speaker, meaning the Georgia Republican delegation appears to be all together on the vote expected on Wednesday.

Hice was not sold on Ryan, of Wisconsin, when the conservative House Freedom Caucus met last week, and he was one of a handful who stuck behind U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Fla. But in subsequent meetings, Hice said Ryan agreed to conservative demands.

For example, a Ryan-desired rules change that would prevent a small group of Republicans from combining with Democrats to force out the speaker — a key pressure point for Speaker John Boehner’s departure — will not happen anytime soon. “At least for now, that’s totally off the table,” Hice said. So the Freedom Caucus keeps its leverage.

“We’ve received some solid promises for genuine institutional reform,” Hice said Tuesday, “and at the end of the day that’s what we’re after, some changes around here. …

“Now is a time for unity. I think it’s a time for us to come together. I think the American people want that, and I know on this end there have been tremendous efforts taken to come to that.”

Among the promised changes, Hice said, is a commitment to keeping a “majority of the majority” as a rule for putting bills on the floor. That means not allowing Democrats to carry bills with a handful of Republicans, as is expected to happen this week on a debt-ceiling increase and budget deal. Hice said Ryan also committed to a less leadership-driven process that allows rank-and-file members more opportunity to bring bills to the floor.

Publicly backing Ryan is a big move for Hice. For one, Hice’s predecessor, former U.S. Rep. Paul Broun — who’s perpetually rumored to be re-entering the political fray — is drumming up donations for an online effort to “Fire Paul Ryan.”

Secondly, the biggest foes to Ryan’s ascension have been in conservative talk radio, and Hice’s previous profession was conservative talk radio host.

Hice advised his former media colleagues to show some trust.

“All I know is what conversations I’ve had with him, meetings I’ve had with (Ryan), commitments he has brought to the table that I am comfortable with,” Hice said. “If we do these things — that I am committed to doing — I think a lot of the opposing views will dissipate with time.”

And if Ryan doesn’t follow through, there’s always the “motion to vacate the chair” still in place.

“That’s something that Jefferson gave us a long time ago, and it’s there for a purpose,” Hice said. “Again, that’s off the table for now, and I’m glad for that. But we’ll deal with that if and when the time ever arises for it.”

Republicans plan to hold a vote on the speaker Wednesday. It would then go to the floor of the House on Thursday for a vote of all members.

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