After weeks of the media building up the looming struggle for the position of Speaker of the House, Congressman Paul Ryan secured the job by a very safe margin. The narrative had genuine twists and turns, particularly House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy stepping aside, and the surprising period of time it took Paul Ryan to seek the position.
In the final analysis however, much of the drama seems to have been a bust. Many expected no uniting figure in the Republican Party to step up. Had Ryan not put himself forward, the story may have played out much more dramatically.
Possibilities such as moderate to conservative Democrats crossing the aisle to support a mainstream Republican was on the table, along with open warfare between the Republican Party’s factions.
After a few days of skepticism though, it seems that Ryan won over all but the most diehard members of the Republican Party’s far right.
Once the votes were tallied, only nine Republicans voted against Ryan. As for Democrats, all but three supported former Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Rather than vote for Pelosi, these conservative, or Blue Dog, Democrats cast symbolic ballots for figures such as Civil Rights hero John Lewis, and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.
This outcome is a far different one than John Boehner experienced; earlier this year, 25 Republicans split their votes on other possibilities, and some did not vote, giving Boehner the lowest support of any Speaker in over a hundred years.
As such, all the talk of the historic difficulties facing Republicans in picking a new speaker were largely exaggerated. Of course, the outcome is still an important one.
While many Republicans view Congressman Ryan as something of an establishment figure, given that he was the party’s most recent vice presidential nominee, he is still seen by most as being more conservative than former Speaker John Boehner.
Republicans may be happy to see a more tea party-friendly direction in the House. The outcome also represents what is in all likelihood the end of John Boehner’s political career, and the pinnacle of Ryan’s.
For the only two living former Republican Speakers of the House, Newt Gingrich and Dennis Hastert, the end of their time as speaker was also an end to their careers in politics. While Gingrich made a respectable run for his party’s nomination for the presidency in 2012, since leaving congress he has spent most of his time writing and doing political analysis on television.
As for Hastert, he enjoyed a high-paying lobbying job after leaving politics, but has spent much of the past few years in court due to fraud and yet to be proven allegations of sexual abuse. While Boehner is still healthy enough for another run at public office, or a presidential appointment, he seems inclined to leave politics behind for good.
As for Ryan, Republicans have not been kind to their Speakers who preside over losing elections to Democrats. If Democrats gain any sort of Congressional momentum in 2016, his tenure may well be a short one.