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House Freedom Caucus Sits Down With Ryan. Now What?


Congressman Paul Ryan moved closer yesterday to becoming speaker of the house - closer, but not quite all the way there. He told his fellow Republicans last night he was willing to take the leadership post that many want him to assume. He is willing if key Republican groups say, in advance, that they will accept him. He wants unity. There's a big question here. It's who really directs the House of Representatives? And that leadership debate now takes place with a debt-ceiling deadline and a budget deadline looming. One group who support Ryan wants is called the House Freedom Caucus. And one member of that group is Rep. Dave Schweikert of Arizona. Welcome back to the program, sir.

DAVID SCHWEIKERT: Oh, good morning.

INSKEEP: So your group, we should remind people, wanted new House rules - a little bit less power for the leadership, more powerful - more power for ordinary members. Paul Ryan has his own conditions to become speaker, which would seem to make the speaker a little bit more powerful, like making it harder to remove him. So can you and your group support Paul Ryan?

SCHWEIKERT: Well, we'll find out, hopefully, over about the next 48 hours. The discussion has begun because Paul is also - actually, yesterday, he said he willing to work to empower the committees, and we're hoping, with that, the empowerment of individuals. Remember, for many of us, this has not been about a personality or an individual. It's been about the ability to legislate.

INSKEEP: So it sounds like you have not rejected him, but you're negotiating now. Is that what you're saying?

SCHWEIKERT: No, and it's even outside negotiation. It's also sort of coming to a common understanding. Are we, as the House of Representatives, going to move away from the centralization of power and control to actually being a legislative body where we can actually do our work?

INSKEEP: Is there a deeper issue here of precisely how the House of Representatives confronts President Obama on major issues?

SCHWEIKERT: Actually, right now, this is more the internal mechanics of the ability to represent your constituency, to actually bring when you have creative ideas and bring them and have them be heard. And I believe, with that, you get the juxtaposition of, here's our position as a Republican majority compared to the administration's.

INSKEEP: Is it your instinct, having been among those, I presume, who listened to Paul Ryan last night - is that correct?

SCHWEIKERT: Oh, absolutely.

INSKEEP: Is it your instinct that you're going to end up on the same page as Paul Ryan?

SCHWEIKERT: I'm hopeful, but you try not to jump yet. Really, this really is, for many of us, about policies and procedures, the ability for us to do our work instead of centralized power, for all members, from the right, to the left, to the reformers, to those who protect the establishment as it is to actually have fair, equal voices.

INSKEEP: Now, as you try to thrash that out over the next couple of days, there are some big, big deadlines looming. Here's a very big one - Jack Lew, the treasury secretary, now says, on November 3, the federal government runs short of money; the federal government hits its debt ceiling to pay its bills that Congress has previously approved. Are you going to be organized in time to meet that deadline?

SCHWEIKERT: Oh, of course. Look, the full faith and credit of the United States will be fine. It will be protected. The heartbreak in this is we've turned this into a binary discussion of raise the debt limit or fight over it. The reality of it is there's a number of very smart things we could've done to do some debt management. And when we wait till the deadline, the ability to vet those ideas and work through them go away. And this is actually part of the discussion with who the new speaker may or may not be, is can we get ahead of the curve and stop dealing in crisis management, but start dealing in planning?

INSKEEP: Just in a couple of seconds, are you going to just meet this deadline then and save those bigger debates for another day?

SCHWEIKERT: We'll see. Some of the ideas are actually vetted. We'll see if we have an opportunity to move them forward.

INSKEEP: OK. Congressman, thanks very much, as always. Glad you came by.

SCHWEIKERT: Always enjoy this.

INSKEEP: That's Dave Schweikert of Arizona here on MORNING EDITION. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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