U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., was elected the 54th speaker of the House Thursday, ending weeks of uncertainty amid the Republican Party as to who the body’s next leader would be.
Ryan garnered 245 votes from his Republican colleagues, more than the 218 needed to be elected. The 45-year-old becomes the youngest member in 150 years to hold the Speaker’s gavel and is also the first Wisconsinite.
He succeeds outgoing House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who announced his retirement last month. In a short speech after being officially elected, Ryan said his first order of business would be to try to solve the dysfunction that has plagued the lower chamber of Congress in recent years.
“Let’s be frank: The House is broken,” Ryan said. “We are not solving problems. We are adding to them, and I am not interested in laying blame. We are not settling scores. We are wiping the slate clean.”
After Boehner’s shock announcement that he would step down, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., was considered by most experts to be the favorite to ascend to the speakership.
But members of the party’s conservative faction supported Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Fla., and McCarthy dropped out of the race as it became clear neither candidate could secure the votes necessary to become speaker.
Ryan was then thrust into the race, as many of his colleagues painted him as one of the few members who could lead the party, and elected to run only after weeks of deliberation.
Republican members of the Wisconsin congressional delegation cheered the announcement, saying Ryan is capable of being a strong party leader.
“True leaders reveal themselves in times of uncertainty and change,” U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., said in a statement. “They thrive under pressure and create new paths forward, always working toward the greatest good. Paul Ryan is a true conservative who embodies this type of visionary leadership. His installment today as Speaker of the House gives me renewed confidence and optimism in the direction of our party and country.”
Gov. Scott Walker also praised Ryan, saying in a tweet that he “went to Washington to do something great, not be somebody great. That's why he'll be a great Speaker!”
The Janesville resident will attempt to lead the House amid renewed budget negotiations and the looming need to pass a measure that would fund transportation infrastructure. Ryan said he was willing to work through differences in opinion on those issues.
"We will not always agree, not all of us, not all of the time,” Ryan said. “But we should not hide our disagreements. We should embrace them. We have nothing to fear from honest differences, honestly stated. I believe that a greater clarity between us can lead to greater charity among us."