House GOP nominates Ryan as speaker candidate

This week, Rep. Paul Ryan is set to become Speaker of the House, second in line to the presidency.
This week, Rep. Paul Ryan is set to become Speaker of the House, second in line to the presidency.Zach Gibson/New York Times/File

(Bloomberg) -- 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.

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. At age 45 and known to have presidential ambitions, he is poised to shape the Republican Party for years to come.

He has promised to give rank-and-file Republicans a stronger say in running the House, but also backs the bipartisan two-year budget accord the hard-line Freedom Caucus calls a “fiscal monstrosity.”


“What I’ve heard from members over the last two weeks is a desire to wipe the slate clean, put in place a process that builds trust, and start focusing on big ideas,” Ryan, currently chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, said in a statement earlier Wednesday.

Ryan only agreed to run for the job last week after initially telling colleagues he didn’t want it. He decided to run after winning support from key Republican factions, including most of the three dozen hard-line conservatives known as the House Freedom Caucus.

The Freedom Caucus’s push to shut down the government rather than continue funding Planned Parenthood played a major role in pushing Boehner, 65, to announce he would resign. 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.

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.

Reset Button

In Ryan, some members see an opportunity to press a reset button to unite the party. 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.

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. Ryan said he didn’t want to spend weekends away from his wife and children for the extensive travel and fundraising that have been a major part of the House speaker’s job.

Ryan said he wanted to make it harder to remove the speaker through a process known as a motion to vacate the chair. Freedom Caucus members’ threat to try to remove Boehner last month led to his Sept. 25 announcement that he will give up the job. Freedom Caucus members didn’t back Ryan’s proposal to change the process, and it’s unclear so far whether any revision will be made.

‘Regular Order’

Freedom Caucus member David Brat of Virginia said Tuesday he wanted assurances that Ryan would end “the complete absence of regular order” that led to “five people just determining the budget for the United States of America.” Brat unseated Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a primary election last year.

Ryan announced earlier Wednesday he would support the bipartisan budget deal even though he said the secret process in which party leaders negotiated it “stinks.”


The budget agreement, set for a House vote later Wednesday, would extend U.S. borrowing authority until March 2017 and prevent a default as soon as next week. It would include a two- year deal on defense and non-defense spending levels, with details to be worked out before current funds expire Dec. 11. Spending caps would be increased by $80 billion and paid for with later-year savings and revenue.

Shortly after Ryan announced that he backed the budget, the Freedom Caucus said its members opposed it. 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.”

Dan Webster

Salmon said he was voting for Ryan and predicted before the vote that most of his Freedom Caucus colleagues would do so. Not all caucus members agreed, and at least one said he would vote for the other Republican candidate, conservative Daniel Webster of Florida.

“I’ve committed to vote for Dan Webster in conference and that’s as far as I’ve gone,” said another caucus member, Mark Meadows of North Carolina, who led the effort to oust Boehner.

Ryan’s political trajectory has been upward in a Congress based on seniority. In college, he interned for U.S. Senator Bob Kasten and spent time as a Capitol Hill staffer. Elected to the House in 1998 at age 28, this year he became the youngest chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee since 1861.


He forged a reputation as a no-nonsense legislator guarding against spending he deemed profligate. 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 sought to overhaul Medicare by giving future recipients a fixed amount of money to either buy private insurance or use in Medicare. Democrats say his plans would shred the social safety net.

Immigration Policy

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. Freedom Caucus members said he promised them he wouldn’t bring up such a bill while President Barack Obama is in office.

In his 2014 book “The Way Forward: Renewing the American Idea,” Ryan argued that the previous year’s government shutdown -- led by Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz in an unsuccessful attempt to defund Obamacare -- "wasn’t a disagreement over principles, or even policies.”

“Rather, it is proof of what happens to a party when it’s defined primarily by what it opposes, instead of by its ideas,” Ryan wrote.

At least one other nominee, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, will be offered in Thursday’s vote by the full House. 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.