The Speaker Saga that began when John Boehner announced his resignation last month has finally come to an end. Paul Ryan is now the 62nd Speaker of the United States House of Representatives and while he was all smiles Thursday morning, Ryan has now assumed a role he said he never wanted.
A look back on Representative-now Speaker- Ryan’s career shows an early start in Washington politics. He has represented Wisconsin’s 1st district since 1999- after an election where he had to defend his character, his politics, even his age. Elected at the age of 28 years old, Ryan was only three years older than the minimum age required of representatives in Congress. However, he was able to convince voters that yes; he was old enough to shave and thus began his stellar career on the Hill.
In his 17 years on Capitol Hill, Ryan has spent most of his time utilizing his econ degree, serving as Chairman of the House Budget Committee from 2011-2015 and then Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. He has been remarkably successful in a Congress that is criticized for getting nothing done. His accomplishments include:
* During his tenure as Chairman of the House Budget Committee, every single one of his budget bills was passed.
* In 2013, he was able to negotiate the first budget agreement in the bitterly partisan Congress since 1986.
* In July of 2014, he introduced anti-poverty legislation, entitled “Expanding Opportunity in America” where he presented reforms to decades of anti-poverty legislation and proceedings.
These achievements are the exact reason Ryan did not want to become Speaker.
Paul Ryan has made reforming American tax code a part of his platform since his very first campaign. He has described himself as a “policy guy” and continually said that Chairman of the Ways & Means Committee has been his dream job. It is the job that could have let him finally rewrite and get passed a new tax code, especially if a Republican goes to the White House in 2017. Ryan was also unwilling to run for Speaker due to family reasons. He stated that the Speakership was a role for an “empty-nester”, and he wanted to be able to spend his weekends in Wisconsin. Unlike many families of Congressional members, the Ryan family has never moved to Washington, choosing to raise their kids in Janesville, Wisconsin.
But in the end, Ryan sacrificed his dream job because he flat out feared what would happen if he did not. Ever Since Rep. Kevin McCarthy dropped out of the Speaker Race, there has been a panic that no one could get the 218 votes needed to secure the Speakership. Fortunately, Ryan was able to garner 236 votes, which included all but six of the House Freedom Caucus members, the same Caucus many consider responsible for John Boehner’s resignation.
So today, October 29th, Paul Ryan once again took on a role that is usually held by an older man, becoming the youngest Speaker of the House since 1869. He has also taken the place of a man for whose congressional campaign he volunteered on in college, John Boehner. Boehner mentioned this story in his farewell speech, along with thanking his colleagues and wishing Ryan all the best.
Many in America are wishing Speaker Ryan best of luck as he prepares for what could be his first test as Speaker: next week’s Highway funding bill.