Ryan Is Elected Speaker, Vows to Fix “Broken” House

Paul Ryan and John Boehner embrace after Ryan's election Thursday. Paul Ryan and John Boehner embrace after Ryan's election Thursday. Andrew Harnik/AP

The House elec­ted Rep. Paul Ry­an as speak­er on Thursday, cap­ping weeks of un­cer­tainty about who will lead the cham­ber and the Re­pub­lic­an Party and end­ing the tu­mul­tu­ous rule of Speak­er John Boehner.

In his speech ac­cept­ing the po­s­i­tion, Ry­an con­ceded that the House has been crippled. But he called for a pos­it­ive path for­ward, ask­ing that his col­leagues view his elec­tion as a new day and called on the cham­ber to take on the tough is­sue of the day: Grow­ing the eco­nomy, strength­en­ing mil­it­ary, lift­ing people out of poverty and pay­ing down the na­tion­al debt.

“I nev­er thought I’d be speak­er, but early in my life I wanted to serve this House. I thought this place was ex­hil­ar­at­ing be­cause here you can make a dif­fer­ence,” Ry­an said in his ac­cept­ance speech. “But let’s be frank. The House is broken. We're not solv­ing prob­lems, we are adding to them. But I’m not in­ter­ested in lay­ing blame. We’re not set­tling scores. We are wip­ing the slate clean.”

Ry­an praised Boehner, but amid the Re­pub­lic­an in­fight­ing and Boehner’s sud­den resig­na­tion an­nounce­ment weeks ago, pledged to run the House dif­fer­ently. He said he wants to al­low con­tri­bu­tions from more mem­bers, re­in­vig­or­ate the com­mit­tee pro­cess and end the prac­tice of bring­ing up massive, must-pass bills at the last minute.

“A neg­lected minor­ity will gum up the works. A re­spec­ted minor­ity will work in good faith. In­stead of try­ing to stop the ma­jor­ity, they might try to be­come the ma­jor­ity,” he said.

Still, the vote was not un­an­im­ous, fore­shad­ow­ing the dif­fi­culty Ry­an will have in put­ting to rest the tu­mult that has marked Boehner’s speak­er­ship. Nine mem­bers, mostly mem­bers of the con­ser­vat­ive House Free­dom Caucus, voted for Ry­an’s in­tra­party op­pon­ent, Rep. Daniel Web­ster. Those mem­bers, Reps. Dave Brat, Curt Clawson, Louie Gohmert, Paul Gos­ar, Wal­ter Jones, Thomas Massie, Bill Po­sey, Randy Weber and Ted Yoho, have been skep­tic­al that Ry­an will change the way the House does busi­ness.

Web­ster was re­por­ted to be ur­ging his fol­low­ers to uni­fy be­hind Ry­an. Be­fore the vote, he had sep­ar­ate con­ver­sa­tions with sev­er­al con­ser­vat­ive mem­bers, in­clud­ing Reps. Steve King, Steve Pearce and Yoho. King and Pearce voted for Ry­an, while Yoho backed Web­ster. Web­ster him­self did not vote.

In his speech, however, Ry­an ad­dressed de­tract­ors and said he will try to work in good faith with both Demo­crats and Re­pub­lic­ans.

“The cyn­ics will scoff, they’ll say it’s not pos­sible,” Ry­an said. “You bet­ter be­lieve we will try. We will not duck the tough is­sues, we will take them head on.”

A long­time Con­gres­sion­al staffer who was elec­ted to the House in 1998 at the age of 28, Ry­an rose to be­come chair­man of the Budget and then Ways and Means com­mit­tees. He was the Re­pub­lic­ans’ vice pres­id­en­tial nom­in­ee against Pres­id­ent Barack Obama in 2012.

When Boehner an­nounced his resig­na­tion, and his pre­sumed suc­cessor, Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Kev­in Mc­Carthy, dropped out of the race, Ry­an re­luct­antly rose to the call of his col­leagues and an­nounced a bid for the gavel. He se­cured the en­dorse­ments of most of the House GOP’s caucuses, al­though the Free­dom Caucus de­clined to of­fi­cially en­dorse him.

At 45 years old, he is the young­est speak­er since 1869.

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