- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 29, 2015

Paul Ryan on Thursday became the youngest House speaker in nearly 150 years, winning one of the trickiest jobs in Washington by quelling rebellious conservatives and pledging to shake up the way Congress does business.

The 45-year-old Wisconsin Republican vowed to give every member of the House a chance to have their say in legislation and called for a clean slate after nearly a decade of acrimony and top-down decision-making that had rank-and-file lawmakers in both parties grumbling and voters disgusted.

“How reassuring it would be if we actually fixed the tax code, put patients in charge of their health care, grew our economy, strengthened our military, lifted people out of poverty and paid down the debt,” Mr. Ryan told the chamber. “At this point, nothing could be more inspiring than a job well done. Nothing could stir the heart more than real, concrete results.”

Mr. Ryan succeeds John A. Boehner, an Ohio Republican who was hounded into retirement by conservatives who argued that their leaders weren’t fighting hard enough to roll back President Obama’s agenda.

Voting aloud one by one, 236 Republicans backed Mr. Ryan — more than the 218 he needed to win the post, which suggests he already has made some headway toward party unity.

Nine Republicans voted for Rep. Daniel Webster of Florida, the champion of hard-line conservatives. Nearly every Democrat voted for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who represents a California district.

SEE ALSO: Paul Ryan’s ascension to speaker makes presidency unlikely

Looking on from the public viewing gallery during the vote were dozens of Mr. Ryan’s family members and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, who made Mr. Ryan his running mate.

Mr. Ryan promised colleagues changes to the way the House chamber operates. He said more business would be pushed to the committee level, where rank-and-file lawmakers have a better chance of influencing legislation.

He also said he would move beyond years of gridlock.

“I am not interested in laying blame. We are not settling scores,” Mr. Ryan said. “We are wiping the slate clean.”

Mr. Boehner on Wednesday orchestrated passage of a major debt and spending deal, removing some pressure for the new speaker.

Mr. Ryan’s first fights now will be over a road-building bill and the annual spending process, in which he must decide whether Republicans will pick fights over Planned Parenthood funding and other heated issues.

SEE ALSO: John Boehner bids farewell to House as ‘regular guy’ speaker

“Nothing is going to come easily in his new role. He knows that,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican.

A nine-term congressman, Mr. Ryan started his career in Washington as a staffer and was elected to the House at age 28. By his early 40s, he had risen to become chairman of the House Budget Committee, where his vision for spending cuts and entitlement reform antagonized Democrats.

In 2013, though, he struck a major deal with Sen. Patty Murray, Washington Democrat, to break a budget impasse.

Mrs. Pelosi presented the speaker’s gavel to a “proud son of Wisconsin” who once waited tables at a Capitol Hill hangout, Tortilla Coast. Other top Democrats welcomed Mr. Ryan with a mix of warmth and wariness.

“He is a smart and dedicated leader who is deeply committed to his country and his family. Those qualities will serve him well as speaker of the House, and I look forward to working together to address issues vital to the American people,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat. “But make no mistake — my Democratic colleagues and I will continue to have deep policy differences with Speaker Ryan on the vast majority of issues. We will continue to fight against any effort to privatize Medicare or weaken Social Security.”

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said President Obama phoned Mr. Ryan after his nomination Wednesday to wish him well.

By rising to Congress’ top constitutional post, Mr. Ryan is second in the line of succession to the presidency.

He never wanted the job, though. He said he cherished his free weekends with family and his role as the chamber’s tax policy whiz. But after Mr. Boehner announced his departure and support fizzled for Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, colleagues insisted that Mr. Ryan rethink the matter.

“He’s putting the country before himself, and I think he is the right person at the right time, not only to unite our conference, but I think to change the direction of America,” said Mr. McCarthy, who said his decision to withdraw from the race was the correct one because it united the conference around Mr. Ryan.

As a condition for his reluctant bid, Mr. Ryan demanded fealty from three feuding factions of the party: the Tuesday Group of centrists, the more conservative Republican Study Committee and the House Freedom Caucus, a set of hard-line conservatives who frequently bucked Mr. Boehner.

To win the Freedom Caucus’ support, Mr. Ryan vowed not to push any immigration legislation that doesn’t have majority support from Republicans. He also withdrew his request to scrap a parliamentary maneuver that allows members to oust the speaker.

The nine Republicans who defected and voted for Mr. Webster on Thursday were Reps. Dave Brat of Virginia, Curt Clawson of Florida, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Paul A. Gosar of Arizona, Walter B. Jones of North Carolina, Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Bill Posey of Florida, Randy K. Weber Sr. of Texas and Ted S. Yoho of Florida.

In an interview, Mr. Webster said he told people not to nominate him on the floor and that he and Mr. Ryan agreed not to vote for themselves.

Mr. Gohmert was among the first members to approach Mr. Ryan on the dais and congratulate him after his speech.

“I wanted him to know I will do everything I can to help him when he’s right,” said Mr. Gohmert, a conservative who had been a thorn in Mr. Boehner’s side.

Among Democrats, Rep. Gwen Graham of Florida voted for Rep. Jim Cooper, a Tennessee Democrat who cast his own vote for “Gen. Colin Powell,” who was secretary of state in the first term of President George W. Bush.

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, an Arizona Democrat from a swing district, voted for Rep. John Lewis, a Georgia Democrat and a key figure in the civil rights movement.

Dave Boyer and S.A. Miller contributed to this report.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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

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