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Pearce a holdout on picking Ryan

The House Freedom Caucus, a group of about 40 conservative Republicans, last week managed to cobble together the support of two-thirds of its members to support Rep. Paul Ryan’s bid for U.S. House Speaker, but Rep. Steve Pearce wasn’t among those who plan to back the Wisconsin Republican.

Pearce, a southern New Mexico Republican, said he still prefers Rep. Daniel Webster, a relatively obscure Florida Republican, for the speaker’s job.

“I, for one, have always been aligned with Dan Webster and I’m still in that position,” Pearce told the Congressional Review radio program Wednesday night.

The House Republican caucus has been in the midst of a leadership crisis since John Boehner announced his retirement in late September and his presumptive replacement, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, abruptly abandoned his campaign to replace him. McCarthy bowed out in part because it was clear that he would have the same clashes with the Freedom Caucus over government spending and other issues that Boehner did.

Rep. Paul Ryan, a savvy lawmaker who ran for vice president on Mitt Romney’s presidential ticket, reluctantly agreed to run for speaker on Thursday at the behest of many other House Republicans.

Ryan had hoped for endorsements from all key House Republican factions. He didn’t quite get one from the Freedom Caucus, but apparently he figured two-thirds of the group was good enough. An official endorsement would have required 80 percent support.

Pearce, who repeatedly clashed with Boehner over what he described as Boehner’s reticence to confront Democrats over spending, immigration and other issues, said Tuesday night he wasn’t thrilled with Ryan’s “preconditions” for accepting the job, which initially included a demand that the House Freedom Caucus endorse him. Ryan’s demands also included the scrapping of a House GOP rule that allows a simple majority to remove the speaker and the ability to spend an adequate amount of time with his family.

“It looks like Paul has the support he was looking for very likely to become the next speaker, but now then he’s got to wrestle with his preconditions,” Pearce said. “I don’t think anyone in the conference really is wild about his preconditions.”

What all this means is that Ryan is very likely the next speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives but there is definitely no guarantee that the entire Freedom Caucus on his right flank will fall into line with his leadership.

The House speaker election is scheduled for Thursday.

Speaking of Pearce and Boehner, in this space last week I inadvertently attributed Boehner’s remarks on President Obama’s Afghanistan military strategy to Pearce.

The two Republicans, who are often at odds, issued similar statements on Obama’s announcement that he would keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan through the end of his second term. Both Boehner and Pearce criticized Obama’s “arbitrary” military timelines for withdrawal, but only Boehner’s statement made it into this space. Here is Pearce’s full statement on the matter:

“The decision to pull out American forces on an arbitrary date should never have been made in the first place,” Pearce said. “The United States and the world cannot afford to repeat the same mistakes that were made in Iraq. We need to learn from those mistakes by completing the mission, according to a strategy – not a calendar date – and by keeping our commitment to the Afghan people. And, we must honor the commitment we made to our soldiers, many of whom made the ultimate sacrifice to protect and defend us.”

If you’re looking for something to do this Halloween, Sen. Martin Heinrich has a novel idea, but it will cost you a thousand bucks.

Heinrich’s campaign fundraising team is offering up a Halloween event “which will be a real treat and no costume is required.” The New Mexico Democrat is joining with Sen. Al Franken, a Minnesota Democrat and former Saturday Night Live cast member, and “Better Call Saul” star Bob Odenkirk, for a Halloween lunch at a private Albuquerque residence. If you want to attend you’ll need to donate $500 each to Heinrich’s and Franken’s campaigns.

Heinrich is up for re-election in 2018 and Franken is up in 2020. Apparently, one can never start raising money too early in the congressional campaign business.

“We are asking that you contribute at least $500 to both Martin and Al to help them build up their campaign accounts and ensure they are ready for their next elections,” the invitation said.