On September 25th, former Speaker of the House John Boehner announced his intent to resign from his position as Speaker and Representative from Ohio’s 8th district. Boehner has been a Republican member of Congress since 1991 and Speaker since 2011. His tenure was marked by record party polarity – between Democrats and Republicans and within the Republican Party itself. Boehner had trouble controlling the party’s extreme right factions and Tea Party caucus.
Many liberals considered him too strong headed and not willing enough to find common ground while the far right saw him as too willing to compromise with President Obama and even considered him to be a Republican in name only. This sharp divide in Congress is believed to be the reason for Boehner’s resignation, announcing his departure just as it seems the Republican Party is tearing at the seams.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California was the first to enter his name in the race to replace Boehner. It quickly became apparent, however, that McCarthy did not have the power to lead a fractured Republican Party and most likely would not have received the 218 votes necessary to be elected Speaker, especially because the Tea Part Republicans put up their own candidate, Daniel Webster. On October 8th, McCarthy withdrew his name from the race.
It soon became obvious that the only Republican who could hope to unite the Republican Party and garner enough votes to win the Speakership would be Wisconsin Representative and former Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan. Ryan at first refused to run, citing the time commitment necessary to fulfill the job and his reluctance to attempt to control a divided GOP.
However, after continued support from Republican leaders, including those from the far right, and a personal plea from John Boehner, Paul Ryan relented and on October 22nd entered the race. One week later, Ryan was elected the 54th Speaker of the House with 236 votes as John Boehner presided over the election and immediately after announcing Ryan as the winner handed over his gavel. At age 45, Paul Ryan is the youngest Speaker in 170 years.
Ryan was quoted as saying “I never thought I’d be speaker. But I pledged to you that if I could be a unifying figure, then I would serve — I would go all in. After talking with so many of you, and hearing your words of encouragement, I believe we are ready to move forward as one, united team. And I am ready and eager to be our speaker.”