Paul Ryan set to be elected 62nd House speaker

29 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Boehner’s exit breaks up the long-running ‘Big Four’ of Congress.

Young, personable and impassioned about – of all things – tax reform, Paul Ryan is poised to become the second-most powerful person in Washington and may herald an end to the bitter partisan dysfunction paralyzing Congress. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. speaks to during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, after a Special GOP Leadership Election.

Ryan (R-Wis.) was endorsed by the House Republican Conference, including some members of the Freedom Caucus, the conservative group that refused to back the ascension of Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), causing him to decide not to seek the speakership. Paul Ryan the new House speaker, hoping the young but grizzled lawmaker can heal the splintered party’s self-inflicted wounds and fashion a conservative message to woo voters in next year’s elections. House of Representatives, handing the 45-year-old who once was a congressional intern the enormous task of uniting his fratricidal party and, perhaps, ushering in a new era of governance. “I don’t plan to be Caesar, calling all the shots around here,” he told the often-riven Republican caucus Wednesday after rallying rare support from all three of its main factions, including the right-wing Freedom Caucus that drove John Boehner to quit as Speaker. Ryan’s office says Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who was the GOP presidential nominee, and his wife, Ann, are joining Ryan’s family in the speaker’s box as the House is expected to make the Wisconsin congressman the 54th speaker. The House planned to formally elect the Wisconsin Republican to the post Thursday, with lawmakers voting aloud, one by one, in a tradition that bespeaks the dignity of a chamber that lately has been more rowdy than respectful.

With the GOP controlling 247 of the House’s 435 votes, Ryan’s election was assured, despite grumbling from conservatives demanding more say in how the House operates. Ryan will be the youngest Speaker in more than a century, taking over a post that combines unrivalled power with high ceremony, fundraising and a father-confessor role. In his acceptance speech, Ryan planned to ask both parties for a period of healing and to focus on working families, said an aide who described the remarks on condition of anonymity. “If you have ideas, let’s hear them.

A greater clarity between us can lead to a greater charity among us,” Ryan was planning to say, said the aide, in what seemed a bid for GOP reconciliation. Since January 2007, the “Big Four,” as they are referred to at the White House, have come together for everything from Oval Office huddles during global crises to institutional ceremonies such as awarding the Congressional Gold Medal. About as different personally as any four people could be, Boehner and his three cohorts have learned each other’s rhythms and tactics, their bargaining ploys and their dead-serious moments of candor. After leading the House since 2011, the 25-year House veteran stunningly announced his resignation last month, hounded by hard-line conservatives who are mostly rallying behind Ryan — at least for now. They have overseen a historically unpopular Congress, yet if not for their own battle-tested negotiations, things might have been a lot worse. “Very well, I know all of them very well,” Boehner said Wednesday in an exit interview with congressional media.

He has already flirted with the national political spotlight as the Republican vice-presidential candidate in 2012; becoming Speaker offers him the chance to steer major change in Washington. Thursday’s vote comes as Congress nears completion of a bipartisan accord to avert a jarring federal default next week and likely prevent a December government shutdown by setting spending levels for the next two years. Powerful Speakers build coalitions, move landmark legislation and deal effectively across party lines – although it never makes them popular with their party’s hard core. Speakers such as Massachusetts Democrat Tip O’Neill, whose working relationship with Republican president Ronald Reagan irked many and achieved much, are regarded by history as far more important that ardent partisans such as the departing Mr. Ryan (R-Wis.), would have had to make incredibly difficult decisions in his first week on the job without having any real relationship with Pelosi, Reid and McConnell. “When you throw somebody new into the mix at the last second and something has to happen, it really isn’t fair for them or frankly for the others,” Boehner said.

Vice-President Joe Biden said earlier this week. “He knows this government can’t function without reaching some consensus and he wants to do that.” Mr. Ryan, so far, is saying all the right things. “If I’m elected Speaker, we will begin a conversation about how to approach these big issues – as a team,” he told Republicans. Wednesday’s House budget vote underscored Ryan’s challenge in leading Republicans who often have scant interest in compromise, especially with a GOP presidential contest dominated by candidates who vilify Washington insiders. Conservatives complain that Boehner has been excessively powerful, forcing bills to the House floor without rank-and-filed input, dictating committee chairs and punishing rebels.

Pelosi admitted to feeling “sad” about losing her sparring partner in so many House debates, first during four years as speaker and the last five as minority leader. “Somebody leaves, there’s a new person in five minutes,” she said, snapping her fingers to emphasize how quick Boehner’s departure feels. Past chairman of the House Budget Committee and current head of the Ways and Means panel, he’s put his imprint on deficit reduction, tax, health and trade legislation — prime subjects that have raised his stature and put him at the center of many of Congress’ highest profile debates. They couldn’t be much more different: Pelosi, 75, the extroverted Italian grandmother from San Francisco; McConnell, 73, the introverted only child raised in the South; Reid, 75, the soft-talking Mormon from a tiny mining town in Nevada; Boehner, the gregarious Midwesterner from a family of 12 kids with a penchant for Camel cigarettes and an extra glass of merlot. If they were a four-piece band, Pelosi would be the lead guitarist, providing the energy and drive; McConnell, the bass guitarist quietly holding the act together; Reid, the drummer pushing his silent rage to make things work better.

Ryan acknowledges that the realities of governing, and fundraising, impose some pragmatism, if not crass expediency. “Even if you come to Congress believing in limited government and fiscal prudence, once you get here you are bombarded with pressure to violate your conscience,” Mr. Boehner and McConnell joined the group after the 2006 election thumping that left Republicans in the minority amid ethics scandals and the unpopular Iraq war. Ryan’s claim that what he wants most is to spend time with his young family in Janesville, Wis., not far from Lake Koshkonong, sometimes rings hollow.

The four leaders had some of their most fierce clashes in the first 18 months of Obama’s presidency, as massive Democratic majorities pushed through health and banking laws with hardly any Republican support. On social issues, he remains solidly conservative – against same-sex marriage and abortion – but he backed Barack Obama’s huge bailouts of the auto industry and Wall Street banks. Four months later, that debate ended with Boehner’s floor speech asking lawmakers if they could call the legislation free of backroom deals cut by Pelosi.

On Wednesday, during a wistful goodbye visit to the speaker’s office, McConnell and Boehner recalled the final Sunday before a deadline on the Treasury’s borrowing limit that, if breached, could have led to global financial collapse. Boehner burst into laughter when he considered how close the leaders were to not reaching a deal and a U.S. default on its debt: “We were pretty close.” In their odd negotiating style, Boehner spent that day in his office watching the final round of a PGA Tour golf event, McConnell in his office watching baseball. The only other congressional quartet to lead their caucuses together for more than five straight years — Tom Foley (D-Wash.) as speaker, Bob Michel (R-Ill.) as House minority leader, George Mitchell (D-Maine) as Senate majority leader and Robert Dole (R-Kan.) as Senate minority leader — ended their act together in 1994.

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