Paul Ryan elected 54th House speaker
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Story By Jake Sherman | Politico Paul Davis Ryan, the 45-year-old policy
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Paul Davis Ryan, the 45-year-old policy wonk from Wisconsin, is now speaker of the House.
The 16-year veteran of Congress received the support of all but nine of his colleagues in an election to replace John Boehner on Thursday, ending a tumultuous monthlong period for the Republican Party and the House of Representatives.
“To me, the House of Representatives represented the best of America, the boundless opportunity to do good,” Ryan said after the election, speaking from the speaker’s podium. “But let’s be frank. The House is broken. We’re not solving problems, we’re adding to them. And I’m not interested in laying blame. We’re not settling scores, we’re wiping the slate clean.”
Ryan won a commanding 236 of 245 Republican votes, a feat in a deeply fractured and divided party. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California received 184 votes, and nine Republicans voted for Florida Rep. Daniel Webster. The resounding victory gives hope that Ryan might be able to heal an institution damaged by years of hyperpartisanship and crisis-driven legislating.
Ryan has always been an outsize figure on Capitol Hill. His budgets were sharply criticized by Democrats and used as an election-season weapon. But the GOP stuck with the spending plans and increased their House majority — and Ryan’s stature has only grown.
He returned to the House after an unsuccessful bid for vice president in 2012, and was later elected to lead the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. It was his life’s goal until he was dragged into the speakership, a job he said he never wanted. But now that he’s been elected, the former chairman of the Ways and Means Committee is positioning himself as a clean break from Boehner, whose tenure was marked by divisive intraparty battles.
In his remarks on the House floor, Ryan echoed his campaign promises. He wants to empower committee chairmen and decentralize power, restoring regular order in an institution that’s long been run from the top down.
“I come at this job as a two-time committee chair,” Ryan said, referring to his time atop the Budget and Ways and Means committees. “The committees should retake the lead in drafting legislation.”
A man who’s often been lauded — and chided — for his ideas, Ryan promised that during his reign Congress “will not duck the tough issues; we will take them head on.”
“My friends, you have done me a great honor,” Ryan said. “The people of this country, they have done all of us a great honor. Now let’s prove ourselves worthy of it.”
Ryan’s large family — including his wife, Janna, and three young children — watched his election and swearing-in from the seats in the gallery of the House of Representatives. Mitt Romney, who selected Ryan as his running mate in 2012, also watched from the gallery with his wife, Ann.
Before Ryan embarks on some of his legislative goals — tax and welfare reform, for example — he’ll face the task of following through on his promises to the rank and file. To prove he’s serious about reforming the institution, Ryan is embarking on an overhaul of internal House procedures, restructuring a powerful committee that selects committee assignments. Ryan has told his colleagues that he plans to rewrite internal institutional rules by the end of the year, with the help of the entire House Republican Conference.
Thanks to Boehner, Ryan should have a relatively smooth year ahead of him. The House passed a Boehner-negotiated budget package Wednesday that lifts the debt ceiling until March 2017 and sets government spending levels for the next two fiscal years.
But Ryan will be on a short leash. The conservative House Freedom Caucus wants Ryan to truly change the way the institution runs. Its members voted overwhelmingly for him on Thursday morning.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Story By Jake Sherman | Politico
Jake Sherman is a congressional reporter for POLITICO. He covers the House Republican majority. Since 2009, Jake has chronicled all of the major legislative battles on Capitol Hill, and has also traveled the country to cover the battle for control of Congress. >>FULL BIO