Despite the vehement protestations of the talk radio (Mark Levin and Laura Ingraham, specifically), Ann Coulter, and the Breitbart crowd, the House Freedom Caucus backed Paul Ryan with a super majority vote (though he fell short of the official endorsement). This paved the way for him to become the next Speaker of the House.
You might be wondering how this came to be.
It’s impossible to know for sure, but I have a theory: The most bitter opponents of Ryan are motivated almost solely by the issue of immigration reform — but the Freedom Caucus has a lot of members who are (or have been) open to some type of reform (which makes sense, considering the libertarian framing of the name “Freedom Caucus”).
In a joint 2013 letter written to Sen. Rand Paul , signed by Reps. Mick Mulvaney , Justin Amash , Thomas Massie , Jeff Duncan , and Mark Meadows , the group advocated “expanding legal immigration” and finding a way to “reasonably address the reportedly 11 million people who came here knowingly and illegally…”
Rep. Daniel Webster , the original Freedom Caucus candidate for Speaker, has advocated immigration reform (so long as it comes after the border is secured). Consider his quote in this 2013 article from the AP: “‘I think as a country we need to do something,’ Webster said in an interview, echoing the rhetoric of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and other prominent Republicans. ‘Doing nothing is amnesty.'”
Rep. Raul Labrador , who ended up opposing the Senate bill, is for immigration reform — in principle. “What I think should happen is for illegal immigrants to come out of the shadows, become legalized in some way and that status could lead in someway to legal residency and citizenship eventually but just the same as everybody else,” he said.
As recently as a year ago, Amash argued “We have to find some rational system to allow those who have come here illegally to get right with the law … And that means over a period of many years, a probationary sort of system. Pay penalties and then have the opportunity to become legal residents, but they wouldn’t be brought to the front of the line.”
Politics is messy. And while members of the Freedom Caucus are hard core conservatives, they do not share the same passion that animated the people who were most actively opposed to a Speaker Ryan. Additionally, Ryan has assured them he will not seek immigration reform while President Obama is in office.
Once you get past the “amnesty” issue — which was a deal breaker for some — Ryan is obviously the most conservative candidate who could ever realistically get the job. And a super majority of conservatives in the House, it seems, agree.