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Freedom Caucus split: Barry Loudermilk backs Paul Ryan, while Jody Hice still holding out

WASHINGTON -- The verdict from the arch-conservative House Freedom Caucus tonight on the speaker hopes of U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan is support but not a full endorsement.

 It's still enough to pave the way for an apparent Ryan speakership. Here's what he had to say via a spokesman:

"I’m grateful for the support of a supermajority of the House Freedom Caucus. I look forward to hearing from the other two caucuses by the end of the week, but I believe this is a positive step toward a unified Republican team.”

More than two thirds of the roughly 40-member group backed Ryan, but not quite the 80 percent required for the full endorsement.

Ryan has “got the votes to be speaker, so we’ll see where he goes from here,” U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, a Monroe Republican, said as he emerged from the Freedom Caucus meeting.

The group met with Ryan on Wednesday, one day after Ryan announced that he would save the House from its leadership turmoil, but only if House Republicans all get behind him and meet some demands.

The group of about 40 Republicans has demands of its own, asking for a less centralized process in the House and a more aggressive conservative direction.

U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk of Cassville, Georgia’s other Freedom Caucus member, said he supported Ryan.

“He agreed with us that the institution has shifted from being a member-driven institution to a leadership-driven institution, and he has committed to change that,” Loudermilk said. “… With the process and the policies in place, it doesn’t matter as much who (the speaker) is.”

Hice said he did not support Ryan in the internal vote but remains undecided for the GOP votes scheduled for next week.

“He said a lot of great things but I’m still weighing it out, so I’m not sure at this point,” Hice said.

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