By Steven Viera || Senior Editor
Last Thursday, Paul Ryan (R-WI) was elected as Speaker of the House of Representatives. Ryan secured 236 votes to win the speakership, winning the votes of all but nine members of his party, while Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) won 184 votes; she remains the House Minority Leader. His ascension follows the resignation of former Speaker John Boehner (R-OH).
Upon his election, Ryan— who is the youngest Speaker of the House since 1875— delivered a speech expressing his admiration for the potential good the House of Representatives is capable of, while he simultaneously condemned its current state of partisan gridlock and impotence and issuing a call to action.
“But let’s be frank: The House is broken,” he said. “We are not solving problems. We are adding to them. And I am not interested in laying blame. We are not settling scores. We are wiping the slate clean. Neither the members nor the people are satisfied with how things are going. We need to make some changes, starting with how the House does business.”
He went on to advocate for greater agency to be turned over to rank-and-file representatives rather than congressional leadership. According to this article in The Wall Street Journal, the Freedom Caucus— a group of about 40 conservative hardliners in Congress— supported Ryan on the basis that he would empower individual representatives at the expense of a central authority, a move that critics like Harry Reid (D-NV) have criticized as detrimental to the health of the nation.
Ryan’s predecessor served as Speaker of the House for nearly five years, since 2011, and served as a representative from Ohio for over 20 years before that. As Speaker, Boehner faced challenges from factions within the party, such as the Freedom Caucus, that undermined his speakership and ultimately led him to resign; he announced he would be leaving Congress in a surprise announcement on Sept. 25, 2015. The likely favorite to succeed Boehner was Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) according to this article in The New York Times, but— citing a lack of confidence in his ability to unite the factions of the Republican Party— he abruptly withdrew, prompting Ryan to jump in the race.
Aside from fostering unity within the Party, Ryan will have to deal with a number of problems early in his tenure. First and foremost is the debate over funding the federal government: While Boehner, in his final days as Speaker, did manage to pass a resolution to raise the debt ceiling, Congress did not actually make a decision on funding the government for the coming year according to the article from The Wall Street Journal. Current legislation authorizing spending will expire on Dec. 11, meaning that Ryan will need to lead the House to pass new bills or face a
potential government shutdown.
Prior to being elected Speaker, Ryan served as a congressman from Wisconsin beginning in 1999 including service as chair of the prestigious Committee on Ways and Means. In 2012, Ryan was the vice-presidential candidate on Mitt Romney’s unsuccessful campaign for president.
Since assuming his new role, Ryan has addressed a number of issues, such as the government defunding of Planned Parenthood.
“I don’t think Planned Parenthood should get a red cent from the tax payer,” he said, according to this article from CNN.com. However, when pressed as to whether or not he would defund the organization, he said, “I think being an effective opposition party means being honest with people upfront about what we can and cannot achieve.”
Additionally, Ryan expressed that he would not work with President Barack Obama toward immigration reform.
“I think it would be a ridiculous notion to try and work with a president we simply cannot trust on this issue,” he said on CBS’ Face the Nation.
Senior Steven Viera is a senior editor. His email is email@example.com.