WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan is on the verge of a reckoning with House conservatives that threatens to end his speakership and extinguish his future as a national political leader.

The intraparty fight is due to begin in the days after the Nov. 8 election, when Ryan, R-Wis., will be under immediate pressure from about 40 hard-line House conservatives frustrated with his handling of spending fights and his shifting position on Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. The conservatives are eyeing a November leadership election and December spending deadline to determine how Ryan can lead Republicans – or whether he can lead them at all.

Conservatives have no plans to compromise next year with Hillary Clinton if she wins the White House and Democrats capture the Senate. They are pushing Ryan to hold the line on spending and other matters, even if it means continued gridlock on Capitol Hill. Some members of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus have crafted a list of demands – including deep spending cuts, changes to House rules and a promise to vote only on bills that have majority Republican backing – in exchange for their support.

“If the speaker can’t answer yes to those on paper, I’m going to someone who can,” said Rep. Dave Brat, R-Va. “From now on it needs to be on paper, in writing, with a blood oath of some sort pledging your house and mortgage on the line, too.”

Some mainstream conservatives who constitute the bulk of House Republicans are starting to openly contemplate whether he will want to continue as speaker.

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee and an adviser to Republican leaders, said his “operating assumption” is that Ryan will run again for speaker. “But you’re foolish not to think through what are the alternatives if something like that didn’t happen,” he said. “It’s not been an easy job, and working with a President-elect Clinton is going to be pretty difficult going forward.”

A challenge to Ryan would resound far beyond Capitol Hill, with the Wisconsin Republican as a proxy for the pre-Trump party and its embrace of conservative orthodoxy on free trade, entitlements and regulatory policy. It will take place against a backdrop of what is expected to be intense soul-searching by a Republican Party torn apart at the seams by Trump’s candidacy.

Many conservatives are frustrated with Ryan’s approach to Trump – including his waffling on whether to endorse him, his denunciation of some of Trump’s more controversial statements and Ryan’s announcement that he would not defend or campaign with his party’s nominee.


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