Rep. Paul Ryan was elected speaker of The House of Representatives Thursday, replacing John Boehner, who was nudged into retirement by a combative cadre of hardline Republican conservatives that he couldn’t control or satisfy.
That job now falls to Ryan, R-Wis., a blue-eyed, buffed, politically-savvy 45-year-old policy wonk from Janseville, Wis., who was Republican Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate in 2012.
"It’s not until you hold this gavel, stand in this spot, look out and see all 435 members of this House - as if all America is sitting right in front of you," Ryan said in his acceptance speech. "It’s not until then that you feel it: the weight of responsibility, the gravity of the moment."
Ryan received 236 votes to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s 184 votes. Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Fla., who had the endorsement of the hardline conservative House Freedom Caucus before Ryan entered the race, received nine votes while former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., and Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., each received one vote.
Ryan, the 54th individual to serve as speaker, was a reluctant candidate for the job. He initially told colleagues that he would be more than content to remain chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.
But he heeded pleas from colleagues who argued that he was perhaps the only person who could repair a deeply-divided and dysfunctional House Republican conference.
"He did not seek the office," Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., chair of the House Republican Conference, said in nominating Ryan on the House floor. "The office sought him."
The House GOP has been at war with itself since expanding its majority to 247 members following the 2014 elections. Pronounced disagreements over tactics and strategy has caused rifts between so-called establishment Republican members and often-rebellious GOP lawmakers who’ve been agitating for a leadership that takes a firm no retreat, no surrender approach in dealing with congressional Democrats and President Barack Obama.
They’ve even sparred with the Republican-controlled Senate, often complaining that the upper chamber led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is an impediment to the conservative agenda.
Ryan agreed to run only after securing support from the Freedom Caucus – the small but vocal group of hardliners that helped drive out Boehner, R-Ohio, and prompted House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., to abruptly drop out of the speaker’s race – and other groups and lawmakers who’ve expressed dissatisfaction with the party’s leadership in the chamber.
Boehner, in a farewell address, said he’s leaving the speakership and Congress "with no regrets or burdens."