House Republicans officially nominated Rep. Paul Ryan to be the next Speaker of the House. Ryan defeated Florida Republican Daniel Webster, the Freedom Caucus’ initial choice, by a tally of 200 for Ryan versus 43 for Webster.
South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy, who at one point was a favorite of many conservatives to ascend to the House’s top position, delivered the nominating speech for Ryan.
After the vote Ryan immediately pledged to unify a fractious Republican caucus, which is roiling after a contentious budget process, around a forward-thinking conservative agenda.
“We have an obligation here in the people’s house to do the people’s business,” Ryan told reporters after the vote. “We are going to respect the people by representing the people.”
And that begins by fixing the legislative process, which often frustrated members from across the conservative spectrum, especially on the tentative budget deal.
“I’m reserving judgment on this agreement because, quite frankly, I haven’t seen it yet,” Ryan told reporters on Tuesday. “I want to see what it looks like on paper, but about the process, I can say this. I think this process stinks. This is not the way to do the people’s business, and under new management, we are not going to do the people’s business this way.”
“As a conference, we should have been meeting months ago to have a unified strategy moving forward,” Ryan continued.
Even outgoing Speaker, John Boehner admitted that he wasn’t a fan of the process.
“Totally agree, totally agree,” he said in response to Ryan’s criticism. “It stinks. This is not the way to run a railroad.”
Some Republicans are rightly concerned that the coordinated messaging is a staged attempt to allow Ryan to keep his hands publicly clean, while privately rooting for the deal. But even members who have openly criticized the budget deal have praised Ryan for remaining consistent in his message about a need for change in the process.
“He has had absolutely no – he’s had no role in it,” Rep. Mark Meadows, a Freedom Caucus member told CNN. “He’s condemned the process and this is indicative of what we are trying to change – an 11th hour deal, no matter how strategic it may be, is problematic when members have not had input.”
“[Ryan] has tried to make it clear that this is not the way that he would do business and has been very definitive on that so I take him at his word,” Meadows continued.
The key procedural change Ryan is discussing is returning to “regular order,” a process by which bills originate in committee, are heavily debated, are open to amendments, and, in the case of the budget, are done in 12 individual appropriations bills rather than an omnibus bill. Joel Gehrke reports for National Review:
As a corrective, Ryan plans to schedule “semi-regular” GOP conference meetings “that are focused on policy” rather than House current events, according to a spokesman in his office. He also wants to meet more frequently with individual members of the conference, giving HFC lawmakers a chance to influence the strategy while also binding them to support the conference’s plan. “I think what he was saying was, ‘Ok, guys, I’m going to be very inclusive and I’m going to give you the opportunity to make your amendments, but then when I do that I’m going to expect you guys to not go off and create some kind of donnybrook rebellion that undermines the cohesiveness of the conference,’” another HFC member says.
One of the ways Ryan plans on being more inclusive is to re-energize committees’ role in the legislative process. The hope is that giving interested members, who have developed expertise in their policy areas, the time to build a good policy will pay much greater dividends than simply cobbling together a bill at the last minute. Of course, that also comes with some degree of risk to leadership, who will no longer have a tight grip on the direction of the caucus.
“Certainly, the committees are going to be writing the policy,” Ryan’s spokesman told Gehrke. “I think what it means for the conference is that they’re going to have a speaker very willing to take risks and put forward bigger, bolder ideas, even if you know that they’re not going to be able to be signed into law by this president. He’s laying the groundwork for that, so we can be ready to move in 2017.”
Big, bold ideas? Where do we sign up.