Ryan takes speaker’s gavel, faces daunting challenges

30 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

John Boehner, ‘normal guy,’ exits into the sunset.

A tearful Speaker John Boehner worked his way through a box of tissues today while delivering his adieu to the House, which elected Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin to succeed him. Abilene, Kan.; and Washington — In the prairie town of Abilene, Kan. – boyhood home of GOP President Dwight Eisenhower – two young men are very concerned about the future of the Republican Party.

Lukens was a Republican lawmaker from the Cincinnati area who was accused of paying a mother money and gifts so that he could have sex with her 16-year-old daughter. Truman was unexpectedly thrust into power. “The day after Franklin Roosevelt died and Truman became president, he told a group of reporters: ‘If you ever pray, pray for me now. . . . House on Thursday in a day of high political theater, a young new leader for a fractured Congress, charged with healing Republican divides and quieting the chaos of Capitol Hill. “Let’s prove ourselves worthy,” Ryan urged from the House dais where he was sworn into the job, second in line to the presidency, after an extraordinary month of unrest for Congress. Boehner said, “There’s a difference between being asked to do something and being called to do something.” Somewhere along that asking-calling continuum is arm-twisting, kicking and screaming, which better describes what went into Mr. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said it days after Boehner’s late-September bombshell, and again this week: “I think history will be kind to [Boehner] because he kept the word he’s always said, ‘Continue to do what’s right.’ And that’s what he’s done.” “Boehner was dealt a pretty tough hand, frankly,” said Rep.

Ryan’s been elected to be the savior of a House Republican conference at war with itself – a healer who can close wounds ripped open by disagreements between hard-liners who agitated for a more aggressive GOP leadership and their so-called establishment brethren who view deals with Democrats and President Barack Obama as part of their job. Greg Walden of Oregon, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. “History will be kinder.” For “Boehnerites” — the dozens of rank-and-file House Republicans who supported his leadership aspirations over the years — the one-time plastics-salesman-turned-professional pol was misunderstood, underrated and woefully unappreciated. The measure was expected to clear an initial legislative hurdle well after midnight in a dead-of-night vote resulting from the Senate’s convoluted legislative timetables and delaying tactics by opponents. They admit that as speaker, Boehner was battered by all sides for years, lurching from one crisis to the next, and was basically forced to resign by conservative hard-liners who had grown weary of him and his backslapping ways. Many in the GOP majority planned to vote “no,” including presidential candidates Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, who canceled campaign events to rush back to Washington to oppose it.

He was easy to caricature and mock: a chain-smoking, Merlot-drinking, perpetually tan golf addict and “country club Republican” who was out of place in the modern GOP, an anachronism whose act had gone as stale as his 1990s-era jokes. Ryan, 45, the Republicans’ 2012 vice presidential nominee, was elected speaker in a rare, live roll-call vote on the House floor, with each lawmaker standing in turn to declare his choice. And that lifts the spirits of both Travis Sawyer, who like Speaker Ryan belongs to Generation X, and his friend Kenny Roelofsen, a Millennial. “I’m excited,” says Mr. But there’s still plenty of stuff in there that could put Ryan knee-deep in early challenges. “Paul Ryan is riding on the back of a tiger,” said Robert Bixby, executive director the Concord Coalition, a bipartisan government fiscal watchdog group. “The basic problem hasn’t gone away, that you’ve got a faction of the House that is relatively sizable that really don’t really want compromises.

Yet the Boehner loyalists insist this unhappy and premature end to the Ohio Republican’s political career masks a string of real accomplishments that will become clearer later, once he is no longer there to kick around. The nays are members of the Freedom Caucus, the conservatives whose idea of freedom at times involves hogtying both the House and the federal government. Some of the ones high on their list: Ushering in the biggest House GOP majority in eight decades, making the Bush tax cuts permanent and reforming Medicare. The final tally showed 236 votes for Ryan, 184 for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democrats’ candidate, and nine for Republican Daniel Webster of Florida. He remembers Ryan as Mitt Romney’s running mate in 2012, and he hopes that the new speaker, known for his conservative budget proposals, can “get down to the dollars and cents” of fixing America’s debt problem.

Plus, they say, in time it will become clear that governing is no easier for Paul Ryan than it was for Boehner — and, in some ways, it could be worse. When Boehner and Nussle and their Gang of Seven decided to rip the Band-Aid off the festering wound that was the House of Representatives, it was a shock to the system. But in the end most Republicans swung behind Ryan, underscoring the strong desire of nearly all members for a fresh start after years of conflict and GOP infighting. Roelofsen, who is part owner of a family tractor-parts business. “Plus,” he adds, “Ryan’s younger, and I like to see that, too.” Ryan may not be running for president (yet). With his wife and three kids from Janesville, Wisconsin, watching on from the gallery, along with presidential running mate Mitt Romney, Ryan accepted the gavel from Pelosi and pledged a new day for the Congress.

But his energy and charisma, as well as his “opportunity for all” message, could help his party as it tries to entice more young voters, observers say. And without directly mentioning them or the troubles they’ve caused, he promised to bring the GOP’s rebels back into the fold. “We need to let every member contribute — not once they have earned their stripes but right now,” Ryan said. “Open up the process. One way Ryan can help attract Millennials is to unite the fractious Republican conference, says Douglas Heye, a former House GOP leadership aide. “Millennial voters are as tired as anyone, if not more so, by the constant bickering in Washington, and Paul Ryan is someone who wants to really break that,” Mr. The House is expected to vote as early as next week on a $325 billion, six-year bill that authorizes payments to states for their road, bridge and transit projects, the first such legislation in six years. Boehner’s oft-told tale — one of 12 children, worked in his family bar growing up, first in the family to go to college — is truly American Dream-caliber drama.

Currently, however, the bill has guaranteed funding for only three of those years, and it’s up to the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, Ryan’s old panel, to fill in the rest. A respected minority will work in good faith.” Boehner, who started life as an Ohio bartender’s son with 11 siblings, delivered an emotional farewell address marveling, “This, too, can really happen to you.” Boehner’s parting gift to Ryan was the budget deal revealed Monday night after secretive negotiations among congressional leaders and the White House. Ryan’s swearing-in came almost exactly a month after Boehner shocked the House by revealing his plans to resign from Congress at the end of October.

Newt Gingrich, who had just recently become the whip, launched a surprise attack against his own president during a budget drama, splitting the Republican Party down the middle, and sinking the fortunes of George H.W. After all, if the Freedom Caucus’s principles require opposing anything that violates their principles, they’ve got no choice but to oppose themselves for violating their principles to elect Mr. Donald “Buz” Lukens (R-Ohio) was convicted of paying an underage girl for sex in 1989, Boehner decided to run for his seat and won a tight GOP primary. But in 1997, Boehner joined the unsuccessful “coup” to dump Gingrich, an irony not lost on anyone familiar with the final chapter of Boehner’s congressional career. Ryan’s speakership may also have to confront federal funding for Planned Parenthood, an issue that some Republicans thought was worth taking to the brink of a government shutdown in the wake of undercover videos that allegedly showed employees of the group discussing the sale of fetal tissue. “We still may have the threat of a shutdown,” Ornstein said. “For Ryan, at least getting through the next year will take a lot of work and a lot of fortitude.

A 2014 study by the Pew Research Center shows that Millennials vote heavily for Democrats and support liberal views on many issues, from same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization to support for activist government. The Michel team was a bit skeptical, and polls showed that nobody really had heard of it as they went into the polls, but the contract gave Republicans a good agenda from which to work when they eventually did take the majority in 1995. A talented deal-maker, Boehner helped assemble the No Child Left Behind bill, working closely with Democrats George Miller and Ted Kennedy on what became President George W. He and Romney touted a plan to turn the costly Medicare system into a voucher plan for future seniors – though traditional Medicare would still be available. While he was no longer in leadership, and Tom DeLay was running the House with an iron first, other members turned to Boehner for advice and guidance.

But included in that orthodoxy is a kind of inclusiveness that will attract young people to the GOP, says Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, a right-leaning think tank in Washington. His mentor was the late Republican Jack Kemp, a congressman and vice-presidential candidate, who championed “enterprise zones” offering tax breaks to foster businesses in poor neighborhoods. Ryan spent much of 2014 visiting urban neighborhoods, and welfare reform is one of his priorities. “We are going to do all we can so working people get their strength back and people not working get their lives back. Boehner may or may not have been implicated in the coup against Newt in 1997, but no matter if he was involved or not, the whole episode exposed the deep cracks in the leadership team.

He bided his time and waited, doing the political nitty-gritty work — fundraising, relationship-building and legislative favors — that leads to real power inside the Capitol. Because of the confluence of history, I had found myself working for DeLay, but I never shared the animosity that some in the DeLay world felt towards Boehner. By 2005, when DeLay was imploding in the Jack Abramoff scandal and had to step down from his leadership post after being indicted in Texas on an unrelated campaign finance charge, Boehner was ready. Opportunity for all – that is our motto,” Ryan said in his acceptance speech Thursday. “Paul Ryan believes very strongly in a new kind of message, a new opportunity society,” Mr. Democrats such as Senator Sanders can offer “halfway” solutions, he says, but Republicans such as Ryan want to tap aspirations. “It’s not a generational thing.

Ryan, he says, is helping conservatives remember why they are conservatives. “It’s not because we care about tax breaks for billionaires, for Pete’s sake. It didn’t prevent the Republicans from getting wiped out at the voting booth that November, and hard-line conservatives were furious at him for “bailing out” fat cats on Wall Street. Boehner rallied opposition to an ascendant Obama and Democratic “supermajority” the following year, bitterly opposing Obamacare, a major Democratic economic stimulus package, and the “cap-and-trade” energy bill. In 2011, the U.S. government came close to defaulting on its debt after Boehner failed to rally support for boosting the debt ceiling, and the country’s credit rating was downgraded.

Ironically, not long after the John became the speaker, we moved right next door to his basement apartment and I got a chance to see his daily routine when he was in Washington. In 2012, Obama, Boehner and then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) squabbled until the last minute over the “fiscal cliff” of tax increases and spending cuts, including an expletive-filled rant by Boehner at Reid outside the Oval Office.

Then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Republicans eventually forced Boehner to cut a deal with Obama and Reid to end the crisis. He and Pelosi reached an agreement on the “doc fix” earlier this year, permanently changing the way Medicare pays doctors while extending a popular children’s health program.

He ended spending “earmarks” — special legislative provisions that benefited one company or industry — which had become a source of widespread corruption. He adopted a “zero tolerance” policy for lawmakers facing ethical or legal problems, and he personally forced several of them to leave office, although he often did it in his typical behind-the-scenes way. He was a relentless fundraiser, spending hundreds of days on the road raising money and rallying votes for Republicans on the ballot. “There has never been anyone who has worked as hard as John Boehner has on the political side,” Walden said. “He has been tireless.” Boehner aides claim the Ohio Republican has helped rake in $300 million since 2009. “He’s been able to accomplish things that sometimes I’m amazed that people in our party don’t give him credit for,” said Rep.

He, like others, suggested redistricting — larger number of members on both sides of the aisle in safe seats — for the increase in partisanship and the difficulties faced by party leaders like Boehner who want to cut deals. “That certainly has changed in John Boehner’s time,” Kline said. It was the day after his most impressive achievement, convincing Pope Francis to address a joint meeting of Congress, that he announced he was retiring.

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