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Speaker Ryan’s Great Start

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Newly elected Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Paul Ryan wields the speaker's gavel for the first time on Capitol Hill in Washington October 29, 2015. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

Paul Ryan began his speakership with a significant achievement: beating the odds to unite a fractious GOP caucus on behalf of a fresh start and clean slate for his party in Congress.

On the final vote to select a new speaker, even the Tea Party-oriented Freedom Caucus gave a solid majority of its votes to Ryan. In the final tally, only nine Republicans (of 247) failed to back the new leader from Wisconsin. By comparison, last year 25 GOP members declined to support John Boehner. In other words, before he even picked up the gavel, Ryan managed to cut the number of conservative dissenters by nearly two-thirds; 96% of elected Republicans backed his bid to become the new Speaker of the House.

This is remarkable, because Congressional Republicans labor under two structural disadvantages when it comes to party unity. First, Barack Obama remains President of the United States. In terms of articulating a coherent agenda, it’s always easier to do so when you have a president of your own party who commands the “Bully Pulpit.”

Second, the Republicans now control majorities in both houses of Congress, so it’s not enough to simply define themselves in terms of opposition to the Democrats. In terms of tactics, it’s always harder to reach consensus when you’re running Congress than it is when your principal task is trying to block initiatives from the other side.

When skeptics cite the greater unity among the party of Obama and Pelosi, that reflects the two prime advantages that Congressional Democrats enjoy. They have a president to set their ideological agenda, while their minority status makes it easier to agree upon legislative strategies to undermine any leadership efforts by the other side.

Even without the presidency, and despite the presence of a broad-based and rambunctious majority, Speaker Ryan has already demonstrated an encouraging capacity to bring about a high-level of Republican unity. May this success continue and expand in the months ahead, for the sake of the party and the good of the country.

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Comments (16)

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  1. scott  •  Oct 30, 2015 at 2:29 pm

    not a bit concerned that many democrats endorsed him?

    • TTRR69  •  Oct 30, 2015 at 6:37 pm

      Not the slightest…He didn’t ask for those endorsements and all they show is how much they respect they have for Paul Ryan…

  2. tthomas kehl  •  Oct 30, 2015 at 2:43 pm

    We will see if Ryan turn’s the power back to the people

  3. boggo  •  Oct 30, 2015 at 2:44 pm

    I have believed for a long time now that this young,articulate congressman will go far in his political career. Do not be surprised to see him one day as president of our united states.

    • Historian  •  Oct 30, 2015 at 3:08 pm

      The odds are against it, boggo. Only once (James K. Polk) has a former Speaker gone on to become President.

    • TTRR69  •  Oct 30, 2015 at 6:34 pm

      I told my wife the same thing after hearing him give the keynote address to the Oklahoma State Convention back in 2009. I still believe, had there not been so many “100% Purists Conservatives” voting 3rd Party or staying home in 2012, Romney would be President and Paul Ryan V.P.

      Fact: 2004 Bush/Cheney 62,040,610 votes
      2012 Romney/Ryan 60,934,407 votes….

  4. TTRR69  •  Oct 30, 2015 at 6:23 pm

    Paul Ryan is the most intelligent, articulate, courageous member of Congress. I believe he is the answer to those of us who pray that our country changes course and gets its house in order…I know there are those who are angry and want to strike out at everyone they perceive as not being a 100% Pure Conservative. IMHO Paul Ryan is as close to that ideology as one can get.

    The reason many of the people criticize him is because he will actually speak and listen to Democrats respectfully…Well, it’s about time we start working together to find some common ground or nothing will ever change and our country will continue down the path to oblivion…

  5. Terry McElrath  •  Oct 30, 2015 at 10:34 pm

    Probably not the right place to register my complaint but after the budget deal by Boehner, I am totally disgusted with the Republican Party. I have voted Republican since Ford/Carter but am ready to support a third alternative that will stand by what he or she says and not turn tail at the first sign of trouble. I don’t think I stand alone!

  6. Jim Bird  •  Oct 31, 2015 at 10:30 am

    Terry,
    From someone who hates the Republiccan Party as much as you seem to, it will never get better than this at this time in our history – Ryan as Speaker and Rubio as President. I can only conclude that you are a democrat or a fool to vote third party now.

    • Terry McElrath  •  Nov 1, 2015 at 8:01 pm

      Unbelievable that you would be so dismissive of someone who has voted Republican when doing so in Texas literally meant going through the back door. I am sincerely disappointed in this Republican Party that has not stood against Obama and held its ground. I have the same disgust for Boehner and his cronies as Sean Hannity and Mark Levine, other well known “Democrats.” Only a fool would think that Republicans such as myself, and I warn you there are millions like me, aren’t very much disaffected with how events have unfolded!

      • Jim Bird  •  Nov 2, 2015 at 4:28 am

        Would you vote republican if Cruz gets the nomination? I’m someone who hates republicans like Boehner and McConnell so much that I and about 50 of my republican friends voted straight democrat in 2012 and 2014. Now that Ryan knows there will be no Party if he doesn’t do what the young guns want; he will stick to conservative principles. Trump, Carson and Fiorina has made the old guard GOP poop their pants. They know they are finished now, for God’s sake Boehner resigned and you want to vote third party now after we won!!!

      • Terry McElrath  •  Nov 2, 2015 at 10:01 am

        How did we win???? Obama got everything he wanted and I don’t see how the truly conservative cause was advanced one iota. You sound very enthusiastic about how this all played out but I don’t share your optimism. All we have right now are words and the stench of what Boehner left behind. And there’s still mush mouthed McConnell running the Senate and what Boehner did wouldn’t have happened without McConnell’s acquiescence (and probably his full support right down the line if the truth be known). And Ryan has a lot of past to account for regarding his budget deal with Patty Murray and his support of amnesty for illegal aliens. To think that Boehner and McConnell relied on Democrats to pass the budget deal sickens me and has jeopardized my loyalty to the Republican Party, a loyalty that goes back to my teenage years when I supported Richard Nixon until the very end. As for the effect of the Freedom Caucus, I am hearing that they are being targeted for defeat by the big money interest of the Republican Party and they weren’t able to stop what Boehner/McConnell did on the budget deal. I would like to see a Republican Party that fights as hard for its core principles as the Democrats, who were willing to lose the House of Representatives in order to pass Obamacare. Why can’t Republicans stand like that for what they say they believe?

  7. Iris Lacey  •  Nov 1, 2015 at 9:15 am

    We have been listening to Michael for years and I have read his book Right Turns. I think he is so smart and reasonable. When things look terrible I am always anxious to hear his perspective. His thoughts are reassuring that we are not on the way to doom and gloom.
    And I never disagree with him. I think he is right on.

  8. Jim Bird  •  Nov 2, 2015 at 10:31 pm

    Terry,
    We won a battle, a major one. After the GOP has seen Trump, Carson and Fiorina’s success in the polls and debates, they know they’re finished as far as leadership is concerned. Boehner couldn’t take the pressure after waiting nearly 30 years to be Speaker! He’s gone and McConnell has announced this is his last term. He will probably resign at some point too. I don’t know how Obama, Clinton and liberals in general get away with the atrocities they constantly foment. Their lawless abuse of power has devastated the world and our economy. I’ve asked Michael several times, by what authority grants these thugs the right to destroy our constitution and our way of life. I’ve not heard his answer or the old leadership address this even once (!) until Ryan did so in his acceptance speech and recent interviews. If we elect a thug like Obama we could exec order all of his crap away. However to ensure our Republic survives the way the Founders intended, we need to do it through Congress and the courts, not by which Party has the most ruthless thug in power. The Republican crony capitalists kept their mouths shut unwilling to fight the regime. Then alongside comes the Tea Party and middle class screaming “WTF are you doing, GOP leadership” who continued to do nothing until now.
    To win the war takes time to ejudicate constitutional principles so as to make them permanent. The Party knows there are about 20% of us Republicans who will no longer vote for them if they don’t move much farther to the right. Without that group they will never win another election even against a felon like H Clinton. That’s why I’m convinced you’re a dem. You have far more leverage not voting than wasting your vote on a third party clown. If you really want leverage vote for the dems.

  9. T. Ruth  •  Nov 3, 2015 at 2:14 pm

    Ironic that one of Ryan’s key conditions for taking the job was weekends had to be free for time with his family; back in Wisconsin, the same monied interests that back Ryan are pushing to change a law that prevents a person from having to work more than 7 full days in a row without time off. A employee can “volunteer” (i.e. coerced for fear of losing their job) to work more than that or be replaced by someone willing to be overworked; no family time for them. Ryan has proposed a tax incentive for family leave that is so meager few employers will utilize it. Behind the mask of “family values” rhetoric is a corporatist attitude that treats corporations as persons but redefines employees not as personnel but “human resources”, i.e. commodities to be used up and thrown away. Many older workers are being laid off and replaced by younger workers because employers don’t want to deal with the expense of aging employees health expenses. Many have become unemployable because of age/health concerns. Ryan’s answer is to raise the retirement age! So much for his youthful brilliance.
    Yesterday Michael was pushing the line that Americans don’t want to do hard work, using farming as an example. Well, rural areas have problems attracting doctors too. In urban areas there is no shortage of Americans willing to do construction, general maintenance, etc; instead employers hire work crews of illegals (the foreman speaks English) at half the wages previously paid. Southern California Edison recently redefined a large amount of jobs as H1-B and laid off it’s American workers. Michael, of course doesn’t have to worry about being replaced by an illegal or a robot.

    • Jim Bird  •  Nov 3, 2015 at 3:28 pm

      You seem to be asking Ryan to make laws that will benefit “workers” for the “cradle to grave” crowd. We want the govt. out of our lives – they’re stupid – they’re corrupt – they’re incredibley lazy, arrogant and narcissistic. The govt. cannot manufacture a toothpick for less than than $5 each. We want them out of our lives, dictating to us what’s good for us because we’re really really smarter than you – that’s why we need to take more and more of your money and your jobs and your productivity because normal people are so amazingly ignorant that you can’t even wipe your butt without govt. toilet paper at $2 per square.
      F___ing politicians need to cut govt. programs, cut spending, cut taxes and stop shredding the constitution. Stop asking what your country (government) can do for you (special favors benefiting you over someone else). In 8 years Obama has doubled the debt of America. That’s more than 230 years of accumulated debt in Obama’s two terms. It’s a disaster of incalculable proportions but that Oval Office golfer did it. The economy will implode soon if the cutting doesn’t start and the shredding doesn’t stop.

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