Instead of party boss, speaker should be a parliamentarian

Paul Ryan wants to change the job of speaker of the House before he takes it. He's right — and he should go farther.

The House of Representatives, like any institution, changes. The old guard of each generation — the gray-haired congressmen, columnists and commentators — lament the changes, and long for a return to the old order. But the old order is often dead and gone, and so it is with the U.S. House.

Before the Tea Party, earmarks were the grease that made the machine run, and K Street fundraisers were the fuel. Now Republicans have banned earmarks, and Citizens United and the Internet have enabled politicians to raise money from grassroots conservatives instead of just from lobbyists.

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The ways and the means of Dan Rostenkowski, Tom DeLay, Jim Wright, Bob Livingston and Dennis Hastert aren't coming back, despite the reminiscing of Washington's press corps and lobbying corps. Congress needs to find a new way to operate, and among other things, the speaker's job should change.

Outgoing House Speaker John Boehner tried to run a transformed Congress by the old means. This proved impossible. Conservative gadfly Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) correctly wrote, "The next speaker will suffer the same fate unless he or she approaches the job entirely differently."

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