Conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus, stirred by the anti-Washington rhetoric dominating the presidential campaign, pulled the rug out from Ryan on Monday night when they voted to oppose the leadership's budget proposal. Without the votes of the roughly 40 members in that group, nothing can pass on the House floor without Democratic support, which Ryan won't get.
After weeks of listening sessions and closed door meetings Ryan and top GOP leaders are struggling to get enough Republicans to back a plan that uses the overall spending level in last fall's budget deal ($1.070 trillion). Freedom Caucus members want to cut an additional $30 billion, and aren't impressed by leadership's offer to find the additional savings elsewhere.
Ryan acknowledged the current political environment was a factor in the standoff with members of his own party about whether or not to even advance a budget this year.
"I think all of the anxiety is coming to a crescendo in this country. You have to understand -- we're the body of government closest to the people. We're up every other year and there's just a lot of anxiety that's out there," Ryan told reporters on Tuesday.
Despite the continued resistance, House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price introduced the GOP budget on Monday and set a committee vote on the blueprint for Wednesday. But with a bloc of Freedom Caucus members sitting on the budget panel there are some serious doubts the current plan even can get enough votes to make it out of the committee.
Several House Republicans, even those who oppose the leadership's efforts, told CNN that there was still a window to try to come up with an alternative approach, but no one could lay out just how something could emerge that could actually garner the necessary 218 votes to pass on the House floor.
If House Republicans fail to approve a budget they won't be able to act on the dozen annual spending bills, and once again this fall congressional leaders will have to fashion a stopgap funding bill to avoid a government shutdown.
Virginia Rep. Dave Brat, a member of the Freedom Caucus, said Ryan has been listening to members, but said his fellow House Republicans should be paying attention to the voters back home who want Congress to get serious about significantly cutting spending.
"We've just got to get more members to listen to the American people and get the numbers going in the right direction," Brat told CNN on Tuesday.
Utah GOP Rep. Chris Stewart, who supports the leadership's budget plan, told CNN that the presidential campaign has 'for sure" made it tougher for the Speaker to get consensus on a plan.
But he praised Ryan for listening to rank and file members and believes leaders still have time to craft some alternative plan.
"As the previous speaker found out you can't impose your will on the House," Stewart said, adding, "you can't force people to do something that they don't think it's in their interests."