WASHINGTON, DC — Splintered House Republicans elected Rep. Paul Ryan to be the chamber’s 54th speaker on Thursday, turning to the youthful but battle-tested Wisconsin lawmaker to mend the party’s self-inflicted wounds and craft a conservative message to woo voters in next year’s elections.
“The House is broken,” Ryan said in his first remarks to the chamber, seemingly referring as much to a GOP civil war between hard-liners and pragmatists as to the House’s usual partisan divisions. “We are not settling scores. We are wiping the slate clean.”
In a slow-moving roll call that mixed politics with pageantry, 236 Republicans called out Ryan’s name as their pick for the job. That put him second in line to the presidency and atop a chamber that has been awash in tumult ever since defiant conservatives hounded Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, into announcing his resignation from that post last month.
Just nine hard-line conservatives voted against Ryan, instead backing little-known Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Fla. Most, including members of the rebellious House Freedom Caucus, backed Ryan, though it was clear that future tensions between them and the chamber’s new leader could not be dismissed. Conservatives have demanded changes in how the chamber operates, including a greater voice for rank-and-file lawmakers in shaping legislation and deciding who will chair committees.
“If you have ideas, let’s hear them,” Ryan said in message that seemed aimed at those unruly conservatives. “A greater clarity between us can lead to a greater charity among us.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., received 184 votes for speaker, all from Democrats. Following tradition, she handed the speaker’s gavel to Ryan after praising Boehner for “his dedication to this House and his commitment to his values.”
Ryan also saluted Boehner, who for conservatives became a symbol of Washington’s ills as a man who too readily accepted compromises with President Barack Obama.
“He’s a man of character, a true class act,” he said of Boehner, who shook hands with Ryan at the lectern and walked up the aisle to the chamber’s rear, his eyes brimming with the tears the emotional lawmaker is known for and accepting hugs from Republicans and Democrats alike.