Ryan succeeds Boehner as speaker, seeks to fix ‘broken’ House

29 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Can Paul Ryan Reform Tax Code in an Election Year?.

Paul Ryan was just elected 62nd Speaker of the House to succeed John Boehner and attempt the impossible task of herding cats beginning with his House GOP conference. Paul Ryan to be the chamber’s 54th speaker on Thursday, turning to the youthful but battle-tested Wisconsin lawmaker to mend the party’s self-inflicted wounds and help woo voters in next year’s elections. “The House is broken,” Ryan said in his first remarks to the chamber, seemingly referring as much to a GOP civil war between hard-liners and pragmatists as to the House’s customary partisan divisions. “We are not solving problems, we are adding to them, and I am not interested in laying blame,” he said. “We are not settling scores. Ryan, who for years has been lauded as the smartest man in Washington, D.C. by a fawning beltway press, was deemed palatable enough for the hardcore right-wing extremist in his caucus to save House Republicans from themselves, but Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is not impressed. Ryan made his name as a budget policy wonk, but there’s little to do there: his predecessor John Boehner wrapped up a deal (one he couldn’t have made without quitting) that should settle the spending and debt debate for the next two years.

We are wiping the slate clean.” In a slow-moving roll call that mixed politics with pageantry, 236 Republicans called out Ryan’s name as their pick for the job. Speaking at a Politico event on Wednesday, Warren admitted that she has had limited interactions with Ryan on the Hill but said that she’s learned all she needs to know about his leadership abilities and priorities as the next Speaker by reading his budget proposals, which Warren called “truly breathtaking.” Ryan, the chairman of the powerful Ways and Means committee known for his infamous “Path to Prosperity” budget (and I guess for his guest starring role as Romney’s failed VP pick, too), was nominated by his Republican colleagues as they managed to pass a bipartisan budget deal for the first time in five years.

That puts him next in line to the presidency after the vice president and atop a chamber that has been in tumult ever since defiant conservatives hounded John Boehner, R-Ohio, into announcing his resignation from the speaker’s post last month. Not so says Warren. “We’re talking about someone who wants to privatize large parts of Social Security, someone who wants to make big cuts in the investments we make in education, in infrastructure, in the pieces that help us build a future together,” the popular progressive proclaimed incredulously. “We seem to have a breakdown in just a kind of agreement about what government is supposed to be about,” Warren remarked on widespread praise for Ryan’s disastrous budget cuts. Otherwise, it’ll be a steady diet of political theater: bills designed to force Democrats into tough votes or make Obama exercise his veto so that Republicans have grist for the campaign mill. That was significantly fewer than the 25 who cast ballots against Boehner in January, a harbinger of the antagonism he encountered with them as the year progressed. But there is a pressing issue we haven’t mentioned: Reform of the tax code, which is a business priority, especially for US multinational companies keeping more than $2 trillion in overseas subsidiaries, and for Democrats concerned that the code’s inefficiencies and poor design tilts it in favor of the rich.

Both Republican lawmakers and the Obama administration have laid the necessary groundwork to reach a deal on the issue, but there’s one big hitch, besides the enormous technical and political challenges. Conservatives have demanded changes in how the chamber operates, including a greater voice for rank-and-file lawmakers in shaping legislation and deciding who will chair committees, and Ryan has expressed openness to such ideas. “Now Paul Ryan has 14 months to prove he can be a speaker for the future, not of the past,” said one Freedom Caucus member, Tim Huelskamp of Kansas. Thats because a potential Republican victory next fall would change the picture in Washington considerably, giving Republicans more leverage over the policymaking process. In an unscripted moment, when he finished his remarks he turned to a House aide and said, “What’s next?” Many Democrats consider Ryan someone they can work with, as they did two years ago in crafting a budget compromise. But they don’t hesitate to assail him as a symbol of Republican policies they consider harsh, including efforts to reshape Medicare into a voucher-like program.

And so Ryan is likely to spend yet another year planning to enact the momentous cuts to US government he has envisioned for his entire political career. Boehner shook hands with Ryan at the lectern and walked up the aisle to the chamber’s rear, his eyes brimming with the tears the emotional lawmaker is known for. Watching the vote from the visitors’ gallery was Mitt Romney, the GOP’s unsuccessful 2012 presidential nominee who vaulted Ryan, 45, to national prominence by selecting him as his vice presidential running mate. The House approved the bill Wednesday 266-167, with final Senate passage on track in a few days despite opposition from conservatives including senators seeking the GOP presidential nomination. The House budget vote underscored Ryan’s challenge in leading Republicans who often have scant interest in compromise, especially in the midst of a GOP presidential contest dominated by candidates who vilify Washington insiders.

Boehner’s resignation prompted a month of GOP turbulence after the Freedom Caucus derailed the candidacy of the heir-apparent, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California.

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