- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 1, 2015

Rep. Paul Ryan is a self-proclaimed budget wonk, with his dream job being chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.

But the Wisconsin Republican has ascended to be the speaker of the House, and former Speaker John A. Boehner says it’s all thanks to that old-time religion.

“First, I laid every ounce of Catholic guilt I could on him,” Mr. Boehner said during an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“You have no choice. This isn’t about what you want to do. It’s about what God wants you to do. And God has told me, he wants you to do this,” he told Mr. Ryan. “Oh, I pulled it all out.”

It paid off. Mr. Ryan was sworn in as the 54th speaker of the House on Thursday, the youngest in 150 years. At 45, he is a good two decades younger than his predecessor and is seen as a fresh face to liven up and help repair the fractured Republican Party.

With five interviews Sunday morning, Mr. Ryan has started to put together a plan for his speakership.

“I think the key here is we need to get Congress working like it was intended to by the founders, a bottom-up, consensus-driven process,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

This “bottom-up, consensus-driven process” has been pushed by the Freedom Caucus, a 40-member conservative group that instigated Mr. Boehner’s ouster and sabotaged Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s speakership bid, resulting in his withdrawal.

Mr. Ryan had to win over the key group to assume the speakership, and some Republicans are concerned that their new leader will be beholden to the Freedom Caucus lest they cause chaos like they did with Mr. Boehner.

Mr. Ryan does not believe that will be the case. He intends to open the floor to discussion from all groups and points of view, he said.

“I think members were frustrated that they did not really have the opportunity to express their own views on the floor,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union. “I think the legislative process has been too tightly controlled and has to be reopened up. I want members of Congress representing their constituents having the ability and the process to actually advance ideas.”

He cited the big issues on which he hopes to focus such as the economy, poverty, defunding Planned Parenthood and repealing Obamacare. He also wants to introduce a simpler tax code.

One of his first big moves will be setting up a special committee to investigate Planned Parenthood, similar to the one Mr. Boehner formed to investigate the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack that resulted in the deaths of four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya.

“I don’t think Planned Parenthood should get a red cent from the taxpayer,” Mr. Ryan said on CNN. “I believe we need to do our oversight. We’re just beginning to start a committee to investigate Planned Parenthood.”

Mr. Ryan also has worked hard on immigration reform, but a bill on that touchy subject does not look likely anytime soon in the deeply divided House. Although the Freedom Caucus insisted that Mr. Ryan not move any immigration reform legislation, he said Sunday that he is not avoiding it just for political reasons.

“This president tried to go around Congress to unilaterally write immigration law,” he said of President Obama’s executive orders. “So specifically, on this issue, you cannot trust this president on this issue. So, why would we want to pass legislation on a very divisive issue with a president we can’t trust on this issue?”

Mr. Ryan also wants to push welfare reform that will “move people from welfare to work, so that people can make the most of their lives.”

While he plans to shake up the House and its processes, some things will stay exactly the same. Mr. Ryan, a resident of Janesville, Wisconsin, who is known for his tendency to sleep in his office rather than rent an apartment in Washington, said he would continue to do so as speaker.

“I just work here. I don’t live here. So, I get up very early in the morning. I work out. I work until about 11:30 at night. I go to bed. And I do the same thing the next day,” he said on CNN.

“It actually makes me more efficient. I can actually get more work done by sleeping on a cot in my office. I have been doing it for at least a decade, and I’m going to keep doing it,” he said.

• Anjali Shastry can be reached at ashastry@washingtontimes.com.

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