Washington, D.C. — Republican Paul Ryan was elected speaker of the House Thursday, making him the youngest, most conservative and most reluctant speaker in modern times.
“He did not seek this office. The office sought him,” said Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state, the chair of the House GOP conference, in nominating Ryan.
Ryan defeated Democrat Nancy Pelosi for the speakership on an almost pure party-line, pro forma vote (236-184), with just nine Republicans “defecting” and voting for Florida’s Daniel Webster, a favorite of some conservative hard-liners.
Shortly after his election, Ryan was to address his colleagues and take the oath of office as a large group of friends and family from his home state of Wisconsin and hometown of Janesville looked on.
His wife, Janna, mother Betty, three children and his siblings all watched the proceedings from the speaker’s box in the House gallery. So did Mitt Romney, who chose him for his GOP running mate in 2012, and his wife Ann. The morning prayer was given by Monsignor Donn Heiar of Janesville.
Before the vote, the collegial Ryan, well-liked by colleagues, stood on the House floor, fielding a steady stream of congratulations from lawmakers in both parties.
Ryan’s term in office will be the 62nd speakership in history, but he is the 54th person to fill the office, since some speakers regained the office after losing it.
As House speaker, he is second in the line of succession to the presidency, a political height no one else in his state’s 167-year history has achieved.
At 45, Ryan has become in some respects his party’s elder statesman, an agenda-setting committee chairman and vice presidential nominee who was drafted for speaker by colleagues who could find no one else to unify their caucus.
In his 17 years in Congress, Ryan has proven to be a skillful politician and legislator, but those skills will be tested as never before in the multifaceted role of speaker, managing a Republican caucus deeply divided over how to advance its agenda.
“He’s so good at policy and legislating that this is a new test for him, herding cats,” said Steve King, a member of the Republican National Committee from Wisconsin who has known Ryan since before he entered politics.
“He’s come a long way,” said King, from a “guy flipping hamburgers at McDonald’s in Janesville…I couldn’t be prouder.”
Outgoing Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, who was forced out by rebellious conservatives in his caucus, addressed his colleagues before the vote, telling them, “I leave with no regrets, with no burdens…just a regular guy humbled by the chance to do a big job.”
Boehner preached patience to House members, saying: “Real change takes time…believe in the long, slow struggle.”
He noted that Ryan, as a college student at Miami of Ohio, put up campaign signs for him in 1990, and he wished Ryan luck on his new job.
Boehner received more than one standing ovation, and a huge sustained cheer when he was done.