Republicans are ready to make Rep. Paul Ryan the new House speaker, hoping the young but grizzled lawmaker can heal the splintered party’s self-inflicted wounds and fashion a conservative message to woo voters in next year’s elections.
The House planned to formally elect the Wisconsin Republican to the post Thursday, with lawmakers voting aloud, one by one, in a tradition that bespeaks the dignity of a chamber that lately has been more rowdy than respectful. With the GOP controlling 247 of the House’s 435 votes, Ryan’s election was assured, despite grumbling from conservatives demanding more say in how the House operates.
In his acceptance speech, Ryan planned to ask both parties for a period of healing and to focus on working families, said an aide who described the remarks on condition of anonymity.
“If you have ideas, let’s hear them. A greater clarity between us can lead to a greater charity among us,” Ryan was planning to say, said the aide, in what seemed a bid for GOP reconciliation.
Before the roll call, lawmakers will hear farewell remarks from outgoing Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. After leading the House since 2011, the 25-year House veteran stunningly announced his resignation last month, hounded by hard-line conservatives who are mostly rallying behind Ryan — at least for now.
Thursday’s vote comes as Congress nears completion of a bipartisan accord to avert a jarring federal default next week and likely prevent a December government shutdown by setting spending levels for the next two years. The House approved the bill Wednesday 266-167, with final Senate passage on track in a few days, despite opposition from conservatives including senators seeking the GOP presidential nomination.
House Republicans made Ryan their nominee for speaker in a secret ballot Wednesday that saw him defeat his only announced opponent, Rep. Dan Webster, R-Fla., by 200-43. Ryan later said it was time for “turning the page” on GOP infighting that followed Boehner’s decision to leave, though he revealed no specifics about his plans.
“We think the country is heading in the wrong direction,” he said. “And we have an obligation here in the people’s house, doing the people’s business, to give this country a better way forward.”
Though Ryan won less than the 218 votes needed to be elected by the full House, conservatives — including members of the rebellious House Freedom Caucus — said most would back him Thursday. Democrats are expected to make a futile vote for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Wednesday’s House budget vote underscored Ryan’s challenge in leading Republicans who often have scant interest in compromise, especially with a GOP presidential contest dominated by candidates who vilify Washington insiders. Republicans opposed the budget deal by 167-79, but Democrats supported it unanimously.
Conservatives complain that Boehner has been excessively powerful, forcing bills to the House floor without rank-and-filed input, dictating committee chairs and punishing rebels. One Freedom Caucus leader, Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, said conservatives expect Ryan to alter that.
“We’re going to have his back for the next few months and make sure that we give him the opportunity to show that he can be the leader that we hope he can be,” Labrador said.
Boehner’s resignation prompted a month of GOP turbulence after the Freedom Caucus derailed the candidacy of the heir-apparent, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. Establishment Republicans pressured a reluctant Ryan to seek the speakership, prevailing on the party’s 2012 vice presidential nominee as their best shot at patching the GOP’s ragged ruptures.
Amiable and just 45, Ryan has been in Congress 17 years and has strong ties with all wings of the GOP. Past chairman of the House Budget Committee and current head of the Ways and Means panel, he’s put his imprint on deficit reduction, tax, health and trade legislation — prime subjects that have raised his stature and put him at the center of many of Congress’ highest profile debates.
Many Democrats like Ryan but none hesitate to attack him as a symbol of Republican policies they consider harsh. These include efforts to reshape Medicare into a voucher-like program, squeeze savings from Medicaid and pare taxes for the rich.
“This presents the clearest distinction of anyone they could have named: the Ryan budget,” Pelosi told reporters.
Ryan will become the House’s 54th speaker, putting him second in line to succeed the president. He’ll be the youngest speaker since Rep. James Blaine, R-Maine, who was 39 when he took the job in 1869.
At Wednesday’s closed-door GOP meeting to nominate Ryan, one Republican asked him how he would differ from Boehner.
“I’m not going to cry,” he joked, according to Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., a reference to Boehner’s proclivity for tears at emotional moments.
AP Congressional Correspondent Erica Werner and AP writer Matt Daly contributed to this report.
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