- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 28, 2015

House Republicans nominated Rep. Paul Ryan Wednesday to be their next speaker, surfacing from a turbulent month of party soul-searching to rally behind the rising star from Wisconsin and place him second in line to the presidency.

Mr. Ryan won a vote of the House Republican Conference behind closed doors, all but assuring his formal election Thursday on the House floor, where he is expected to cobble together the 218 votes needed to assume the top constitutional post in Congress.

“Tomorrow, we are turning the page,” said Mr. Ryan, the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee. “We are not going to have a House that looks like it looked the last few years. We are going to move forward. We are going to unify.”

He won the nomination in a 200-43 vote over Rep. Daniel Webster, a Florida Republican who roiled the race with his reform-minded message but signaled that he didn’t want to challenge Mr. Ryan on the House floor. That should clear the way for Mr. Ryan to consolidate support and win the speakership on the first ballot.

Mr. Ryan’s first challenges will be passing a highway construction bill and getting Congress to focus on the annual spending bills. He won’t have to worry about the debt limit because the House cleared an increase Wednesday.

Mr. Ryan’s allies said they didn’t see him faltering Thursday, based on the tenor of nominating speeches and their sense of where the party stands.

“I don’t have a whip count, but I didn’t sense any animosity, I didn’t sense any bitterness, any recrimination,” said Rep. Tom Cole, Oklahoma Republican.

Mr. Ryan’s ascension would cap a congressional career that has predominated much of his adult life.

Once a Capitol Hill staffer, Mr. Ryan was elected to Congress at age 28. By his early 40s, he had risen to chairman of the House Budget Committee, where his vision for spending cuts and entitlement reform antagonized Democrats, though he struck a major deal with Sen. Patty Murray, Washington Democrat, to break a budget impasse in 2013.

This year, he took over the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee.

Leading Democrats said they are ready to work with a Speaker Ryan as long as he keeps his troops in line and is ready to negotiate with their side.

“The jury is still out,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Maryland Democrat. “Intentions are one thing, and reality is another, so let’s see.”

Mr. Ryan didn’t even want his latest promotion, saying he preferred his Ways and Means role and weekends at home with his wife and three school-age children.

But colleagues pleaded with him to reconsider, casting him as a unifying salve for years of party division that drove the current speaker, John A. Boehner, to seek an early retirement from the job he had held since 2011.

Mr. Boehner cleared the way this week for Mr. Ryan to start fresh by negotiating a budget deal that suspends the nation’s borrowing limit until March 2017 and increases government spending by $50 billion in 2016 and $30 billion in 2017, with cuts or other savings toward the end of the decade. The budget bill passed the House on a 266-167 vote late Wednesday.

Mr. Ryan offered qualified praise for both the deal — that there were no options at this point — and Mr. Boehner, saying the Ohioan served with “humility and distinction” but that he planned to change the way business is conducted in the people’s chamber.

Mr. Ryan’s decision to run for the top House job came with conditions. He said he wouldn’t keep up the hectic fundraising schedule of past speakers, and he demanded fealty from all three factions of the party — the Tuesday Group of centrists, the more conservative Republican Study Committee and the Freedom Caucus, a set of hard-line conservatives who frequently bucked Mr. Boehner.

By commanding party unity, Mr. Ryan avoided the fate of Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, the California Republican who this month dropped his bid for speaker at the last minute amid resistance from the Freedom Caucus, which favored Mr. Webster.

Mr. McCarthy of California received one nominating vote anyway Wednesday, as did Rep. Marsha Blackburn, Tennessee Republican.

Though short of an endorsement, two thirds of the Freedom Caucus backed Mr. Ryan this month after he vowed not to push comprehensive immigration reform while President Obama is still in office. He also walked back his request to scrap a parliamentary maneuver that allows members to oust the speaker.

Freedom Caucus members said they expected Mr. Ryan to get the support he needs Thursday, but not all of them were ready to pony up the votes.

Rep. Dave Brat, a Virginia Republican whose stunning primary bid ousted Majority Leader Eric Cantor in 2014, said Mr. Ryan hadn’t signed on to a set of principles he set out for him.

“That’s what’s going wrong in this place. No one’s putting any ideas down on paper and [making] promises to the American people,” he said. “People are talking internally, inside the room, but that’s not good enough for the American people.”

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