On Wednesday, October 28, Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WS) became the new Speaker of the House when he won approval by the House Republican caucus. The action became final the next day when the full House as is the custom confirmed the caucus action. Ryan received 200 votes within the Republican caucus. At the same time the current Speaker was shepherding through a package or agreement that will mean Speaker Ryan will not confront the party-spitting votes on debt ceilings, budget caps and entitlement changes within the last half of this 114th Congress.
Word began to spread on Monday afternoon about a deal between congressional leadership and the President. Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) took the lead in addressing the package. Ryan for his part criticized the deal and the way it was negotiated and promised changes, however, John Boehner had been encouraging Ryan to run for the speakership and likely Ryan knew something was in the works. For John Boehner the accomplishment means that his party will not be confronted with the potential political fallout of a government shutdown either later this year or shortly before next year’s election although they still have to complete this year’s appropriations while dealing with policy rider issues. Boehner ended his term this past weekend and Ryan steps down from his chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee, a power position he just acquired at the start of this year.
There are few drop-dead votes that Ryan will have to face in the next year with the possible exception of a highway bill and the annual appropriations but even that will not be about spending totals but spending priorities. Other contentious issues such as the debt limit, extending the life of the SSI trust fund, the renewal of Export-Import Bank have all been extended into the term of the next President. There is still the possibility of various appropriations riders which could actually surface before the December 11 appropriations runs out when a new and final appropriations bill must be passed. The first task of Ryan will be to deal with internal leadership issues including how committees are filled including the now-vacant chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee.