House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan, R-WI has officially been elected Speaker of the House of Representatives. Ryan won the election held by the full House on Thursday morning, Oct. 29, 2015 with 236 votes, almost all the Republican conference. Immediately afterwards, Ryan took the oath of office and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi handed the speaker’s gavel to him for the first time. In his first order of business Speaker Ryan delivered his first address calling for unity in the House. Ryan, 45 becomes the 54th Speaker of the House and one of the youngest elected to the post.
In the election, Ryan received 236 out of 432 possible votes almost all the Republicans votes out of the 247-member GOP conference. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi received 184 votes all were from Democrats. Meanwhile GOP rival Rep. Daniel Webster received 9 votes all from the Republican Freedom Conference, although yesterday he urged the caucus to support Ryan. Three other votes were cast, one for Rep. Jim Cooper, R-Tennessee, Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, and Colin Powell.
Ryan succeeds outgoing speaker of the House John Boehner, R-OH who is officially retiring on Friday, Oct. 30, and delivered his farewell address prior to Ryan’s vote ascending to the speakership. Ryan, who has served in the House since 1998, for nine terms and nearly 17 years, is a “policy wonk,” who has crafted the House GOP’s budgets, and served as chairman of both the Budget and Ways and Means Committees.
Ryan received high praise from his predecessor during his farewell address, where he was compared to early American leaders who did not seek office, but served when needed. Boehner expressed, “As Cincinnatus understood, there’s a difference between being asked to do something and being called to do something. Paul is being called to serve, and I know he will serve that calling with grace and energy.” House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers also praised Ryan in her nominating speech on Wednesday, Oct, 28, saying, “He did not seek this office; the office sought him.”
After, Ryan’s election as speaker, he gave his first speech in the post, where he pointed out the House’s problem, “Let’s be frank: The House is broken. We are not solving problems.” Ryan said, “To me, the House of Representatives represented the best of America, the boundless opportunity to do good.” Ryan pointed out the House needs to “get their act together,” “The American people make this country work, and the House should work for them. What a relief it would be to the American people if we finally got our act together. What a weight off their shoulders.”
After the Republican Freedom Caucus followed through on their promise to vote for Ryan, Ryan followed through on his own promise and announced he will make changes to the House’s “internal rules and procedures.” Ryan will give “committee chairman and rank-and-file members” more “power” and control over creating legislation. The new speaker announced this in his speech saying, “I come at this job as a two-time committee chair. The committees should retake the lead in drafting legislation.” The new speaker indicated, “We need to let every member contribute, not once they have earned their stripes, but right now. If you know the issue, you should write the bill.”
Another rule and procedure Ryan promises will be enforced under his tenure is a return to “regular order,” a bill will have to pass its respective committee before a full House vote. Ryan commented, “When we rush to pass bills that a lot of us do not understand, we are not doing our job.” Speaker Ryan also promised more respect for the minority party, the Democrats, saying, “a neglected minority will gum up the works… A respected minority will work in good faith.”
The new speaker is looking to start a new era of working together, bipartisanship, not the divisions that made Boehner’s tenure so difficult. Ryan declared, “We are not settling scores. We are wiping the slate clean.” Ryan wants members of Congress to work for their constituents, “When we are done, let us say we left the people – all the people – more united, happy and free.” Ryan advised members to be more inclusive and share ideas, “We should not hide our disagreements. We should embrace them. We have nothing to fear from honest differences honestly stated. If you have ideas, let’s hear them.”
Ryan promised during his tenure Congress “will not duck the tough issues; we will take them head on.” The new speaker expressed he was honored to be serving, concluding, “My friends, you have done me a great honor. The people of this country, they have done all of us a great honor. Now let’s prove ourselves worthy of it.”
The House chamber was a packed, for both Boehner’s farewell, and Ryan’s election. Besides Ryan’s family, wife Janna and their children, and his mother, Betty, the new speaker had an old friend there for support, his former running mate, 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his wife Ann were in the gallery.
Ryan also received his first call from President Barack Obama as the Speaker of the House Obama “wish[ed] him well as he ascends to his leadership role.” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest recounted the contents of the call to the press during the daily press briefing. Earnest said the two can work together on issue the mutually benefit them, including “criminal justice reform, cybersecurity,” pacific trade deal. The press secretary said, “As we’ve said all along, the American people have elected Republicans to be in charge of Congress and a Democrat to be president, and that means that if anything is going to make it through the legislative process, it’s going to have to be bipartisan.”