GOP nominates Ryan for Speaker

GOP nominates Ryan for Speaker
© Greg Nash

Republicans on Wednesday nominated Rep. Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanFive takeaways from McCabe’s allegations against Trump The Hill's 12:30 Report: Sanders set to shake up 2020 race McCabe: No one in 'Gang of Eight' objected to FBI probe into Trump MORE to be the next Speaker of the House, declaring him the best candidate to turn the page and unify a fractured GOP conference.

The Wisconsin Republican, who was the 2012 vice presidential nominee, easily defeated his only rival for the top job, GOP Rep. Daniel Webster, a former Speaker in the Florida statehouse.

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Ryan routed Webster in a 200-43 vote during a closed-door conference meeting in the cavernous Ways and Means Committee hearing room where Ryan has presided as the panel’s chairman. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) received one vote, as did Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnTrump’s new Syria timetable raises concern among key anti-ISIS allies Dem lawmaker invites Parkland survivor to attend State of the Union Bipartisan senators press Trump for strategy to protect Syrian Kurds MORE (R-Tenn.).

“This begins a new day in the House of Representatives,” Ryan, flanked by top members of his leadership team, told reporters after the vote. “John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerEx-GOP lawmaker joins marijuana trade group Crowley, Shuster moving to K Street On unilateral executive action, Mitch McConnell was right — in 2014 MORE served with humility and distinction, and we owe him a debt of gratitude. But tomorrow we are turning the page. ... We are going to move forward, we are going to unify.

“Our party has lost its vision, and we are going to replace it with a vision.”

The full House is expected to elect Ryan as the 54th Speaker in a public floor vote Thursday morning, after which outgoing Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) will pass the gavel to Ryan and submit his official letter of resignation. BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerEx-GOP lawmaker joins marijuana trade group Crowley, Shuster moving to K Street On unilateral executive action, Mitch McConnell was right — in 2014 MORE is leaving office Friday after a quarter-century in Congress.

Boehner led his party to the largest House majority in generations last year, but he faced a recent uprising from members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus who threatened to oust him from power. The bloc of roughly 40 conservative hard-liners later pressured McCarthy, the No. 2 GOP leader, to drop out of the race to replace Boehner, paving the way for Ryan.

In the Wednesday tally, Ryan fell short of the 218 votes he’ll need to be elected Speaker on the House floor. But as they exited the room, Freedom Caucus leaders said they planned to switch their allegiance from Webster to Ryan on Thursday; the caucus previously had pledged to support Webster for Speaker in the closed-door vote.

“Our group had endorsed Webster in conference and we’re supporting Ryan on the floor,” Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) told The Hill after the vote. “We actually do what we say we’re going to do.”

One Ryan ally, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), said Thursday’s vote will be a “piece of cake” for the Wisconsin lawmaker. Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), the GOP’s chief vote counter and a key member of Ryan’s leadership team, predicted: “I think he’ll break 218. Yes.”

Immediately after his nomination, Ryan thanked his colleagues in the room, telling them he never imagined a day when he would be chosen as Speaker. “I want to promise you my all. I’m totally committed to you,” he said, according to lawmakers in the room.   

Wednesday’s internal vote came just hours after Ryan announced he would back a sweeping two-year deal that raises spending caps and the debt ceiling. Conservatives had urged him to oppose the pact because the White House, Boehner and other top congressional leaders negotiated it behind closed doors.

But the agreement eliminates the possibility of a government shutdown or debt default through the 2016 elections. In a statement, Ryan said it gives Republicans a chance to “wipe the slate clean.”

House Republicans are eager for a fresh start after the turmoil that defined the Boehner era.

As he’s wooed his colleagues the past week, Ryan has said he’s open to changes to internal rules and procedure that would give rank-and-file members more power to decide things such as which bills come to the floor and who should serve on which committees. Last Friday, he told conservatives leaders that, unlike Boehner, he would not seek retribution against Republicans who buck GOP leadership.

In a private candidates’ forum Wednesday morning, Ryan told colleagues he wouldn’t operate as “Caesar,” gesturing with a thumbs-up and a thumbs-down — reenacting a scene from the action flick “Gladiator.”

“He said, ‘I don’t plan to be Caesar,’ deciding the fate of everything from the Speaker’s office, calling all the shots,” said Rep. Matt SalmonMatthew (Matt) James SalmonArizona voters like Kyl but few think he'll stick around Former Sen. Jon Kyl to replace McCain in Senate Arizona governor faces pressure over McCain replacement MORE (R-Ariz.), a Freedom Caucus leader who is backing Ryan.

Ryan’s only competition for the job came from Webster, who received a dozen votes in his challenge to Boehner in the Speaker’s race in January. But Webster rubbed some supporters the wrong way when he gave a short speech at the Wednesday forum and then refused to take questions and bolted out the door to attend another engagement.

One former Webster supporter said the candidate sent a fundraising email to his wife, explaining that he’s running for Speaker and imploring her to donate money.

“He won’t ask for my vote, but he’s asking for money,” the GOP lawmaker quipped.

By contrast, Ryan stayed at the candidate’s forum for more than an hour, fielding questions from dozens of his colleagues until they had nothing left to ask. Some pressed him to explain his support for the bipartisan budget deal, said lawmakers who attended the event.

“He’s supporting the budget because he doesn’t want to have these cliffs or crises,” said freshman Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.), who worked on the Romney-Ryan presidential campaign in 2012.

Rep. Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyThe family secret Bruce Ohr told Rod Rosenstein about Russia case Trey Gowdy joins Fox News as a contributor Congress must take the next steps on federal criminal justice reforms MORE (R-S.C.), the chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, nominated Ryan for Speaker before the election. Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.) nominated Webster.

Stepping out of the committee room, Webster suggested it was time for Republicans to move on and unite around Ryan.

“This is done. It’s 200 to 43,” said Webster, surrounded by a gaggle of reporters and TV cameramen.

—This story was updated at 9:38 p.m. Cristina Marcos contributed.