- - Thursday, October 22, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Rep. Paul Ryan’s selfless decision to end the hardline conservative rebellion in the House by seeking its highest leadership post is a noble act.

With Republicans in the midst of a bitter civil war that has all but paralyzed congressional action, the much-admired lawmaker has emerged as the only leader who can end the GOP’s political turmoil.

The GOP’s 2012 vice presidential nominee didn’t seek the office, which has been a lightening rod for just about every grievance in the party’s rank and file — especially among its hardcore factions who think that shutting down the government is the only way to gets things done.

Mr. Ryan has risen fast in his party’s leadership, earning its trust as the tight-fisted chairman of the Budget Committee and the chairman of the powerful, tax-writing Ways and Means Committee that has been working on a sweeping tax reform bill.

He especially impressed former Gov. Mitt Romney, who chose Mr. Ryan to be his running mate from a long list of party leaders.

As the leadership battle has raged for weeks, ever since Speaker John Boehner announced he was retiring from Congress, there seemed to be little or no agreement on his replacement.

The 40-member House Freedom Caucus, among other hardline factions, didn’t have the votes to elect one of their own, but had enough votes to deny electing anyone else.

Mr. Ryan flatly refused pleas that he seek the top post, until a bunch of GOP veterans convinced him to give it some more thought for the sake of his party.

This week, he returned to Washington, announcing that he would seek the top leadership office, but only if he had the support of most of the hard-liners, at least 80 percent of them.

Mr. Ryan pressed his conditions at an hour-long meeting Wednesday with the Freedom Caucus, and some refused to go along.

Especially when he said he would run if they changed the House’s rule requiring a simple majority vote to oust the speaker at any time.

But others in the Freedom Caucus worried that the fight had gone on too long, hurting their party, and alienating voters in a critical election cycle.

Rep. Raul R. Labrador of Idaho, a co-founder of the caucus, told reporters after a long meeting Wednesday night that there was an emerging “consensus that we need to move forward because it’s time for the conference to unite.”

“It’s time for everybody to work together and make the Republican Party stronger,” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to do, even with the reservations that some people have about Paul Ryan being speaker.”

Yet even with some reservations, opposition to Ryan appeared to be softening, though 80 percent of the Freedom Caucus was a stretch, some of its members said.

Still, many hardcore conservatives admired Mr. Ryan for his honesty and selflessness at a tough time for their party, when Republicans remained bitterly divided and needed a tested, talented leader who could unite them.

“This is not a job I’ve ever wanted, I’ve ever sought,” Mr. Ryan said. “I came to the conclusion that this is a very dire moment, not just for Congress, not just for the Republican Party, but for our country.”

That kind of simple humility is very rare in Washington where about almost everyone in Congress thinks they should be speaker.

South Carolina Rep. Mick Mulvaney said just a “small handful” still had doubts about Mr. Ryan, but signaled that he had the 218 votes needed to become speaker.

“I think he satisfied many of us that he was going to change business as usual in Washington, D.C.,” Mr. Mulvaney said.

Mr. Ryan is making the rounds of other key GOP factions, including the conservative Republican Study Committee that makes up about two-thirds of the party’s conference, and the centrist leaning Tuesday Group.

Republicans have scheduled a closed vote next week, and a floor vote on Wednesday.

If Mr. Ryan wins, as expected, he will have to deal with the two major issues confronting Congress: passing a budget for the coming fiscal year, and raising the debt limit to pay its bills and its loans.

Then comes the heavy lifting when the Republican-led Congress will need to reassure voters that it will deal with their biggest concerns: the economy, jobs, taxes, spending and a swollen debt.

As the former chairman of the Budget Committee who knows how to cut spending and the deficit, and who runs the committee that’s working on tax reform to lower rates and boost the economy, Mr. Ryan knows both issues as no other speaker has before.

In years past, one of the biggest complaints the voters have is a government that doesn’t seem to get much done.

This will be Mr. Ryan’s biggest challenge, moving the work of Congress faster than ever before, tackling the biggest issues and getting things done to improve the lives of the American people.

That’s going to be a big order next year when President Obama will have his veto pen primed to prevent tax cuts to strengthen the economy, and budget cuts to reduce deficit spending.

It’s a monumental legislative challenge, but one Mr. Ryan is uniquely qualified to get done and sent to Mr. Obama’s desk.

What Mr. Obama does then will be the critical issues of the 2016 elections.

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and contributor to The Washington Times.

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