In the aftermath of John Boehner’s resignation from the House of Representatives speakership, Congress held an internal election on Thursday, Nov. 17 to appoint a new speaker of the House. Republican Congressman Paul Ryan, 45, beat out former speaker Nancy Pelosi and Daniel Webster to win the speakership in a widely predicted landslide victory of 236 votes.
Ryan first worked on Capitol Hill as a legislative aide in 1992 and won his House seat in 1998. In 2012, he was the Republican nominee for vice president. Prior to being elected speaker, Ryan served as the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, where he focused on fiscal policy issues within the federal government, such as strengthening Medicare and Social Security. As the new speaker, Ryan will be tasked with uniting and organizing a divided House GOP membership.
“He’s positioned himself to be a leading, if not the leading, spokesperson for the Republican Party nationally,” Professor of Political Science Keith Fitzgerald said. “Also, he managed to obtain very significant concessions from all factions of the Republican Party within the House, so he will be an unusually powerful speaker.”
In his first speech, Ryan urged House members to acknowledge the importance of unity going forward.
“We are not solving problems,” Ryan stated. “We are adding to them. And I am not interested in laying blame. We are not settling scores. We are wiping the slate clean.”
Although Ryan is confident in his ability to unify the House, in an increasingly polarized American government, uniting the many groups that compose the House will be no easy task.
“I believe that he’s going to cause a split due to his Tea Party leanings,” first-year Dimitri Angelov said. “The main reason the tea party supported the 2012 presidential campaign was because he was the vice presidential candidate. So he’ll try to unite the House, but it’ll be a tough time for him.”
Under Ryan’s speakership, the House will vote on a bill that would suspend the U.S. refugee program for Syrian and Iraqi refugees until tougher security measures are enacted.
“He’s going to change the rules under which the House operates in a way that I think will have the appearance of giving more power to the back benchers, but in fact will give him more power,” Fitzgerald said. “So in a way, he’ll have his cake and eat it too.”
If passed, the bill is poised to deepen the divide between the House Republicans and Democrats as the White House reported that President Obama would veto the bill, saying the certification requirement would only “create significant delays and obstacles in the fulfillment of a vital program that satisfies both humanitarian and national security objectives.”
Contrary to uniting the House, Ryan’s first act as speaker could lead to another government shutdown.
Ryan’s new role will also prove vital for the Republicans in the upcoming presidential election, as the party will soon decide which candidate to nominate for the presidency.
“Now as we go through this election, Ryan can really speak for the party until they have a candidate, so you know who the opposition is to President Obama,” Fitzgerald said. “So until we get to the convention, where you know who the official candidates are for the two parties, we now know who each of the spokespersons are for each of the parties.”
The question also remains as to whether Ryan sees the speakership as just another steppingstone on the path to becoming president, however Fitzgerald remains doubtful.
“He may well come to recognize that this is a prize that while it’s not as great as being president, is truly significant,” Fitzgerald said. “So don’t think that the speakership is a launching pad for the presidency. It’s an awesomely powerful position for the person who knows how to use it, and he may be one of those people.”
Information from this article was taken from cnn.com and house.gov.