Paul Ryan, under pressure from many fellow Republicans to become the next U.S. House speaker, has agreed to meet on Tuesday evening with members of the far-right faction of the party that played a key role in driving the last speaker out of office.
The House Freedom Caucus will meet with the Wisconsin lawmaker, a former vice-presidential nominee, a Ryan spokesman said as the House of Representatives reconvened and turmoil resumed over Republicans' inability to choose a new leader.
Spokesman Brendan Buck said Ryan had agreed to meet with small group of about 40 Republicans at the caucus' request. "He’s always willing to talk with his colleagues," Buck said of Ryan.
The Freedom Caucus was key to House Speaker John Boehner's stunning decision to retire, announced on Sept. 25, after being badgered for months by caucus members who accused him of not standing up strongly enough to Democratic President Barack Obama. The caucus also helped push Boehner's top lieutenant, Kevin McCarthy, to drop out of the speaker race.
Buck said he did not expect Ryan to make a final decision on Tuesday about whether to run for speaker.
Earlier Tuesday, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said he hoped Ryan would be the next speaker of the Republican-majority House of Representatives.
"It appears to me that he would be one of the people over there (in the House) that would be reasonable," Reid, whose politics are anathema to many of the same right-wingers who battled Boehner, said of Ryan.
Ryan is considered the favorite among possible replacements for Boehner, although two other Republicans are announced candidates and some others have said they are considering running if Ryan does not.
When a reporter pointed out that Reid's endorsement would not help Ryan win Republican votes, Reid countered, "I just speak the truth."
"I'm a Paul Ryan fan," he said, adding, "I don't agree with him on much of what he does." In particular, Reid said, he disagreed with Ryan's policies on the Medicare and Medicaid healthcare programs for the elderly and low-income Americans.
"But generally speaking I think ... we've been able to work with him," Reid said. Ryan reached a bipartisan budget deal in 2013.
(Additional reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Sandra Maler)