Democrats like what they hear from Ryan

Democrats are welcoming Thursday's changing of the guard in the House, expressing optimism that newly elected Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanBiden's inauguration marked by conflict of hope and fear The Hill's 12:30 Report: Sights and sounds from Inauguration Day Revising the pardon power — let the Speaker and Congress have voices MORE (R-Wis.) will have better luck managing the rambunctious chamber than his predecessor, Rep. John Boenher (R-Ohio).

The Democrats say they're buoyed by Ryan's debut speech calling for more comity and cooperation, hoping the power shift will bring a new stability to the chamber and grease the skids for future legislative successes.


"It was an aspirational speech," said Rep. G.K. ButterfieldGeorge (G.K.) Kenneth ButterfieldBickering Democrats return with divisions Congress must protect kidney disease patients during the COVID-19 pandemic The time for HELP is now: Senate should pass bill to expedite recovery following natural disasters MORE (D-N.C.), head of the Congressional Black Caucus. "He seemed to suggest that he wants to work in a bipartisan way, and I believe if he delivers on that commitment we're going to have a better Congress and a better America."

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said she's hoping Ryan's allusion to the struggles of the working class will reignite the congressional debate over the minimum wage, childcare benefits and gender pay parity — issues Democrats have long promoted.

"The frame of reference that he had there this morning says that we have people in this nation who are struggling economically," DeLauro said. "Their jobs don't pay them enough, [and] wages have been stagnant for 30 years. He talked about the many and not the few. And so far, the few have benefited so mightily and the many have not.

"My hope is that this reflects a change in public policy."

Rep. Ron KindRonald (Ron) James KindFive centrist Democrats oppose Pelosi for Speaker in tight vote Pelosi wins Speakership for fourth time in dramatic vote LIVE COVERAGE: House votes to name Speaker MORE (D-Wis.), head of the New Democrat Coalition, said Ryan delivered "an appropriate message at an important time."

"He recognizes there's going to be differences but there's no reason why we can't try hard to respect each other a little more, try to find the common ground that does exist and get some things done," Kind said. "I thought it was the perfect tone for the occasion."

Ryan easily won the Speaker's contest on Thursday morning, securing 236 of the 245 Republican votes cast on the floor. The supporters included a heavy majority of the Freedom Caucus conservatives, who pushed BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerCan the GOP break its addiction to show biz? House conservatives plot to oust Liz Cheney Ex-Speaker Boehner after Capitol violence: 'The GOP must awaken' MORE into an early retirement and blocked Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) from ascending to the post.

Ryan has appeased those conservatives partly by vowing to transform the House power dynamics, shifting more responsibility and decision-making from leadership to the committees and rank-and-file members.

"We need to let every member contribute — not once they have earned their stripes, but right now," he told the chamber Thursday. "The committees should retake the lead in drafting all major legislation. If you know the issue, you should write the bill. Open up the process. Let people participate. And they might change their tune.

"A neglected minority will gum up the works. A respected minority will work in good faith," he added. "Instead of trying to stop the majority, they might try to become the majority."

Ryan also took strides to reach across the aisle, calling for the parties to unite for the sake of their constituents and the country.

"A lot is on our shoulders. So if you ever pray, pray for each other — Republicans for Democrats, Democrats for Republicans," he said. "And I don’t mean pray for a conversion. Pray for a deeper understanding, because … wherever you come from, whatever you believe, we are all in the same boat."

Rep. Joseph Crowley (N.Y.), who entered Congress with Ryan in 1999, was quick to hail the message.

"It sounded an awful lot like a Democrat speaking," said Crowley, vice chairman of the Democratic Caucus. "I think he's a good person and a decent guy. That came through, I think, today."

But many Democrats, Crowley included, are wondering how long Ryan can keep the Republicans united in the face of the conservative unrest that led to Boehner's ouster.

"The message was good," Crowley said. "It's really a question of how that's followed through and how that actually happens, and whether it actually happens."

Boehner gave Ryan a huge gift this week by securing a sweeping fiscal deal that raises the debt ceiling and sets budget parameters through September 2017. But Congress is still facing deadlines this year on a transportation bill and the spending package that allocates the money under the budget bill.

Kind said those bills will be an early gauge for how Ryan, known for his policy smarts, adapts to his new role as leader.

"It's going to be his first test, obviously, right out of the block," Kind said. "He's got a group in his conference that has a hard time with our Constitution, the concept of divided government, of checks and balances and the need for us to cooperate with each other to get things done. And how he handles that faction is going to determine whether he has a successful Speakership or not."

Butterfield echoed that message, but argued that Ryan's enthusiasm for policy will be an asset as he tries to rally the divided Republican Conference behind major legislation.

"He's a very personable man, and he's highly intelligent, and he can articulate the challenges and he can get in the weeds with us on public policy. I didn't see that in Boehner," Butterfield said.

"Boehner was a nice man, but he didn't have the patience to dig into the weeds and talk about the impact of legislation on the economy and on families," Butterfield added. "I saw Boehner as more of a political leader than a policy leader. But I think Ryan gets great enjoyment out of debating the policy."