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GOP Picks Paul Ryan For House Speaker

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 28/10/2015 Michael McAuliff
ATHENA IMAGE © Win McNamee via Getty Images ATHENA IMAGE

WASHINGTON -- Finally settling the turmoil that has gripped the House Republican caucus for weeks, members of the party formally nominated Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to be their speaker Wednesday, picking the fresh-faced former vice presidential candidate who had said repeatedly he didn't want the job.

Ryan is expected to secure the votes he will need when the matter goes to the House floor on Thursday, although a number of the more hard-line conservatives in his fractious caucus came out against him in Wednesday's vote.

Still, it was a far cry from earlier this month , when House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was forced to abandon his bid to replace retiring Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) because he could not get enough of the party's 247 members to back him.

The failure could have led to a dramatic and messy showdown on the House floor, where Democrats get to vote, and some Republicans were openly discussing siding with the other party to fill the void.

The final count on Wednesday was 200 votes for Ryan, 43 votes for Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.), 1 vote for Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and 1 vote for McCarthy.

Prior to Wednesday's vote, Ryan did his best to reassure members in a morning meeting that he would make Congress more effective and change the way the House does business. He said he would answer the pleas of many members to open up the process and let more of them have a say.

He left smiling, and walking quickly with his usual coffee cup clutched in his hand. He declined to comment to reporters, but at least one other GOP leader endorsed his approach.

"I have a lot of confidence in Paul Ryan," said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the chair of the GOP conference, when asked if Ryan could deliver on his promises.

Ryan's selection was somewhat clouded by lingering anger over Boehner's final significant act as speaker -- pushing a budget bill to the floor Wednesday that ignores hard-line demands to block a hike in the debt ceiling.

Ryan tried to counter such discontent Tuesday by complaining that the process that led to the budget deal " stinks ," although he appears to have had a role in that process .

Before addressing his fellow members in the morning, he also released a statement, vowing to do better in the future.

" What I’ve heard from members over the last two weeks is a desire to wipe the slate clean, put in place a process that builds trust, and start focusing on big ideas," Ryan said. "It’s time for us to turn the page on the last few years and get to work on a bold agenda that we can take to the American people."

The broken process is a large part of why Ryan didn't want to be speaker. He and his staff had watched in disbelief as tea party-aligned Republicans routinely sabotaged Boehner, forcing him to pull legislation as basic as funding the Department of the Interior .

Another reason to spurn the job was that as head of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, Ryan was in a position to lead consequential legislation that would be close to his heart, especially a long-delayed rewrite of America's tax rules.

He only relented after many in the party declared he was their only hope, and after getting pledges of support from the caucus' various warring members -- not to mention a promise to let him have time with his family .

Ryan can thank the budget deal Boehner cut in part for giving him room to try and make good on his pledges to renovate the House. The deal extends the debt limit until March 2017 and ensures the government will be funded until September 2017, taking off the table the two biggest, most controversial items that conservative Republicans have used for the last four years to try and extract concessions from Democrats.

Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook .

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