Paul Ryan Nominated to Be Next U.S. House Speaker

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Paul Ryan on GOP: We’re Going to Unify
  • Final vote is scheduled for Thursday by all House members
  • Ryan promises not to act like a `Caesar' if elected speaker

House Republicans nominated Paul Ryan to succeed Speaker John Boehner, choosing the budget wonk and 2012 vice-presidential nominee to lead them following months of division between moderates and hard-liners willing to shut down the U.S. government.

Ryan, of Wisconsin, won his colleagues’ support in closed-door Republican balloting on Wednesday, a day before the full House, including Democrats, is scheduled to vote. At age 45 and known to have presidential ambitions, he is poised to shape the Republican Party for years to come.

He has promised to give rank-and-file Republicans a stronger say in running the House, but also backs the bipartisan two-year budget accord the hard-line Republican Freedom Caucus calls a “fiscal monstrosity.”

“This begins a new day in the House of Representatives,” Ryan, currently chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, said after Republicans voted.

Ryan only agreed to run for the job last week after initially telling colleagues he didn’t want it. He decided to run after winning support from key Republican factions, including most of the three dozen conservatives who make up the House Freedom Caucus.

200 Votes

Ryan received 200 votes for speaker from the Republican conference. Daniel Webster of Florida won 43 votes, while House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee each received one.

Ryan will need 218 votes to win when the full House votes on Thursday. Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, a Republican close to Boehner, said he was confident that many of Webster’s supporters would vote for Ryan on the House floor.

Webster didn’t concede the race, and it is possible that he could be nominated for speaker on the House floor alongside Ryan. Two Republicans, Tom Massie of Kentucky and David Brat of Virginia, said they would vote for Webster again on Thursday. Unlike the nomination vote, conducted by secret ballot, representatives will vote publicly for speaker candidates on Thursday and there may be retribution for those who don’t back Ryan.

“He didn’t get 218 today but he’ll get it tomorrow,” Freedom Caucus chairman Jim Jordan, of Ohio, said of Ryan in an interview after the Republicans voted.

The Freedom Caucus’s push to shut down the government rather than continue funding Planned Parenthood, the women’s health provider whose services include abortion, played a major role in pushing Boehner, 65, to announce he would resign. Revolts by conservatives led to a 16-day partial government shutdown in 2013, and the U.S. neared the brink of default in 2011 and 2013 as conservatives battled to attach policy changes to a debt-limit increase.

McCarthy dropped out of the race to succeed Boehner amid conservative opposition, and for a while it seemed as though no one wanted the job.

Reset Button

In Ryan, some members see an opportunity to press a reset button to unite the party. During a closed meeting Wednesday morning, Ryan assured fellow Republicans that was what he intended to do.

“He did the thumbs up, thumbs down thing, and he said ‘I don’t plan to be Caesar -- calling all the shots around here,’” said Representative Matt Salmon of Arizona, a Freedom Caucus member.

“Tomorrow we are turning the page,” Ryan told reporters in brief remarks after he was nominated. He took no questions.

When he decided to run for speaker, Ryan told fellow Republicans he wanted them to unify behind him, end leadership crises and let him continue spending time with his family. Ryan said he didn’t want to spend weekends away from his wife and children for the extensive travel and fundraising that are a major part of the speaker’s job.

Ryan said he wanted to make it harder to remove the speaker through a process known as a motion to vacate the chair. Freedom Caucus members’ threat to try to remove Boehner last month led to his Sept. 25 announcement that he would give up the job. Freedom Caucus members didn’t back Ryan’s proposal to change the process, and it’s unclear so far whether any revision will be made.

‘Regular Order’

Brat said Tuesday that he wanted assurances Ryan would end “the complete absence of regular order” that led to “five people just determining the budget for the United States of America.” Brat unseated Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a primary election last year.

Ryan announced earlier Wednesday he would support the bipartisan budget deal even though he said the secret process in which party leaders negotiated it “stinks.”

The budget agreement, set for a House vote later Wednesday, would extend U.S. borrowing authority until March 2017 and prevent a default as soon as next week. It would include a two-year deal on defense and non-defense spending levels, with details to be worked out before current funds expire Dec. 11. Spending caps would be increased by $80 billion and paid for with later-year savings and revenue.

Shortly after Ryan announced that he backed the budget, the Freedom Caucus said its members opposed it. Still, caucus member Trent Franks of Arizona said he thinks Ryan “has the unique ability to create a compelling message and to disseminate it in a way that people understand it.”

Upward Trajectory

Ryan’s political trajectory has been upward in a Congress based on seniority. In college, he interned for U.S. Senator Bob Kasten and spent time as a Capitol Hill staffer. Elected to the House in 1998 at age 28, this year he became the youngest chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee since 1861.

He forged a reputation as a no-nonsense legislator guarding against spending he deemed profligate. During four years as Budget Committee chairman, Ryan proposed repealing Obamacare, cutting business tax rates, ending the estate tax and consolidating programs for low-income households.

He sought to overhaul Medicare, the health program for seniors, by giving future recipients a fixed amount of money to buy insurance. Democrats say his plans would shred the social safety net.

Immigration Policy

He also has supported allowing 11 million undocumented immigrants to eventually become U.S. citizens, a stance backed by most Democrats and passed in a bipartisan 2013 Senate vote but strongly opposed by most House Republicans. Freedom Caucus members said he promised them he wouldn’t hold a vote on major immigration legislation while President Barack Obama remains in office.

In his 2014 book “The Way Forward: Renewing the American Idea,” Ryan argued that the previous year’s government shutdown -- led by Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz in an unsuccessful attempt to defund Obamacare -- “wasn’t a disagreement over principles, or even policies.”

“Rather, it is proof of what happens to a party when it’s defined primarily by what it opposes, instead of by its ideas,” Ryan wrote.

Democrats will nominate their House leader, Nancy Pelosi of California, for speaker on Thursday. Ryan’s election is assured because Republicans hold a 247-188 advantage in the House and Republican hard-liners who might have voted for other candidates say they will back him.

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