- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Rep. Paul D. Ryan easily won re-election as House speaker as the new Congress convened Tuesday — though not before Democrats warned he was off to a bad start.

Mr. Ryan won 239 votes to be speaker, putting him second in the line of presidential succession and giving him a full two-year term at the helm of the House. He first won the spot in late 2015, taking over for then-Speaker John A. Boehner, who had lost support within the GOP.

Democrats’ candidate, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, garnered 189 votes, and saw four of her fellow Democrats defect to vote for someone else. Mr. Ryan, meanwhile, saw only one Republican defect.

In a brief speech upon taking the gavel Mr. Ryan pledged to Democrats to respect the rights of the minority, and to his fellow Republicans he urged them to seize upon the chance they’ve been given with the GOP controlling both chambers and the White House.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. This is the kind of thing most of us only dream about,” he said, urging them the GOP not to squander it.

“The people have given us unified government. And it wasn’t because they were feeling generous, it was because they want results. How can we live with ourselves if we let them down?” he said.

But his first day of the new Congress was rocky. He and his GOP colleagues had to do a quick reversal and shelve plans to gut the House’s independent investigative ethics office, after near-universal opposition that included a Twitter spanking by President-elect Donald Trump.

After a quick meeting, the GOP drops the ethics changes — but were poised to approve new rules punishing lawmakers who film themselves on the chamber floor. Democrats said that was a retaliatory strike against them after they occupied the floor last summer in a sit-in protest against gun rights, and live-streamed their actions.

Holding up copies of the Constitution during the speaker vote, Democrats said the GOP was trying to stifle free speech on the chamber floor.

“Because the people’s house should be ethical, accountable and open to free debate, I cast my vote for Nancy Pelosi,” said Rep. John Lewis, a Georgia Democrat and hero of the civil rights movement.

All told, five lawmakers refused to vote for either Mrs. Pelosi or Mr. Ryan.

Rep. Kirsten Sinema, a Democrat, voted for Mr. Lewis. Two Democrats, Reps. Jim Cooper and Kathleen Rice, voted for Rep. Tim Ryan, who lost a challenge to Mrs. Pelosi for Democrats’ leadership post last year. Rep. Ron Kind, another Democrat, voted for Mr. Cooper.

Meanwhile one Republican, Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, voted for Rep. Daniel Webster.

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