Republicans officially nominate Paul Ryan for House speaker

28 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Cleaning the barn,’ John Boehner dumps on GOP renegades.

John Boehner’s final act before he leaves Congress is to flip a middle finger at the renegade conservatives who have made his life miserable since he became speaker of the House of Representatives.

The Republican Party may have 15 presidential candidates and a deeply frustrated voter base, but as of Wednesday afternoon, it has a new de facto leader: Paul Ryan.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. Paul Ryan on Wednesday to become the chamber’s next speaker, rallying behind a youthful overachiever they hope will guide them out of weeks of internal feuding and disarray and point the party toward accomplishments they can highlight in next year’s elections. In a secret-ballot election, House GOP lawmakers formally nominated the 45-year-old Wisconsinite to serve as speaker, ending a month-long search to find a replacement for the departing John Boehner who could united the fractious party.

Paul Ryan as their choice for House speaker on Wednesday, coalescing around a fiscal conservative who has vowed to move the party past years of infighting with a more open and inclusive approach to running the House. Ryan of Wisconsin won his colleagues’ support in closed-door Republican balloting Wednesday, a day before the full House, including Democrats, is scheduled to vote. Ryan (R-Wis.), Boehner has made a budget deal with President Obama that will forestall any threat of a government shutdown or debt default until after a new president takes office in 2017. As speaker, Ryan would be the highest-ranking Republican in government and second in line to the presidency—a notch below the office he fell short of winning in 2012.

He is under pressure from the 40 radical conservative members of the so-called House Freedom Caucus to oppose Boehner’s deal with the devil in the White House. But at least for the next several months, he will hold sway over a party that has been tossing out one leader after another for the last year-and-a-half. Daniel Webster (R., Fla.), a long-shot alternative candidate and the favorite of hard-liners who complained about the legislative process and wanted to loosen the speaker’s grip on power. Ryan declared that the process by which the pact was reached “stinks.” That’s about as far as Ryan is likely to go in criticizing Boehner, however, because the departing speaker really has done the presumptive incoming speaker a huge favor. Ryan, a 16-year veteran of Congress who was reluctantly lured into the race for speaker, has promised as speaker to empower committee chairmen and rank-and-file members, and to reform House rules.

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. To show how crazy Republican politics have become, even the Freedom Caucus members are being branded as sellouts by some of their most militant constituents who are being riled up by the right-wing media and paleo-conservative interest groups. GOP lawmakers tabbed Ryan as leader the same day the House planned to approve a bipartisan budget deal that congressional leaders struck with President Barack Obama after weeks of secret negotiations. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California dropped out of the race to succeed Boehner amid conservative opposition, and for a while it seemed as though no one wanted the job. But by the time rank-and-file lawmakers entered the closed-door voting session on Wednesday, Ryan’s election by the Republican caucus was a formality.

Most of them have agreed to support Ryan for the speaker’s job, and the hard right does not trust Ryan’s conservative credentials, either on budget issues or on immigration. 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. He changed his mind only under heavy pressure from party big-wigs, including Boehner, McCarthy, and Mitt Romney, who picked him as his running mate three years ago. The plan is controversial with many on the right but is expected to pass the House Wednesday afternoon – with Ryan’s support – and clear the Senate next week.

Enactment of the package would eliminate the chance of an economically disastrous government default next week and decrease the odds of a December federal shutdown. 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.

Reportedly, Ryan agreed to block immigration reform as long as Obama holds office and promised to seek broad approval from the GOP caucus before allowing other controversial bills to be brought to the House floor for a vote. Ryan is most known in Congress for his tenure as chairman of the Budget Committee, when he wrote the budget that called for overhauling Medicare to turn it into a system of private insurance plans, backed by government subsidies. Top Republicans are intent on avoiding those clashes for fear of damaging voters’ views of the party in the run-up to next year’s presidential and congressional elections. The question is whether the renegades will maintain their support when the balloting for speaker takes place Thursday if Ryan ends up supporting Boehner’s budget deal on Wednesday. Republican voters have been showing a decided preference for outsiders in the presidential nomination contest so far, largely as a reaction against veteran GOP leaders, such as Boehner.

Most of that group’s members said they would back Ryan, but he has a history of compromising on some issues with Democrats and their relationship seems certain to be tested in the months ahead. Two of the dirtiest words among Republican voters these days are “professional politician,” and if anyone qualifies for that designation it is Paul Ryan, who has spent nearly his entire adult life in politics. Although he launched his candidacy with trepidation, Ryan has since made a full-on effort to lock down support and fend off an uprising from outside conservative groups which have attacked his support for immigration reform and accused him of being too close to Boehner. Ryan backed off—for the moment—his demand for protective rules changes and told conservatives he wanted to change the rules empower rank-and-file members, as they’ve requested.

The real battle within the GOP is not between professional politicians and a crew of yeoman farmers who set down their plows to come to the nation’s rescue, it is between conservative politicians who accept the fact that, sooner or later, the business of government needs to get done and conservative politicians who are convinced government is public enemy No. 1. He criticized the process that Boehner used to strike a two-year budget deal (it “stinks,” Ryan said), even though he ultimately endorsed the agreement on Thursday.

Finally, Ryan took care of one last thing before facing Republican lawmakers: He officially changed his name, asking the House clerk to list him as “Paul D. 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.” Salmon said he was voting for Ryan and predicted before the vote that most of his Freedom Caucus colleagues would do so. That deal, which is to be voted on in the House on Wednesday, would raise the debt ceiling through mid-March 2017 and boost spending by $50 billion in fiscal 2016 and $30 billion in fiscal 2017. House Republican leaders are also discussing changing the conference’s rules to give rank-and-file lawmakers more say—another move that could defuse tensions.

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 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.

Ryan’s election is assured because Republicans hold a 247-188 member advantage and some party hard-liners who might have voted for other candidates say they will back him.

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