By Guillermo Duralde,
Domestic News Writer
Last month, as Pope Francis was visiting the United States for the very first time, little did the American people know that with his visit would come a change of a different variety.
While the Pope was in New York City giving his speech before the UN General Assembly, a visibly shaken and saddened John Boehner took to the podium on Capitol Hill to make the announcement that in October, he would be stepping down from his position as speaker of the House.
Speaker Boehner has many times before been criticized for coming across as very emotional, sometimes too much so, but on an occasion such as this one, some emotion was to be expected.
Many who follow Washington politics have noticed that there was a growing sense that Speaker Boehner was losing touch with not only his fellow congressmen and women on the right but also his constituency.
Many believed that perhaps there were to be challengers for the position of speaker of the House when his two-year congressional session was over. However, with all the speculation and rumors flowing in Washington, the fact that Speaker Boehner decided to step down was nevertheless a historic moment.
According to the National Constitution Center, “(s)ince 1789 there have been 114 two-year congressional terms. The last House Speaker to resign during a session was Jim Wright in June 1989.” In this instance, Speaker Wright was dogged by an ethics investigation whose main driving force was Representative Newt Gingrich from Georgia making him just “the fourth person to quit as Speaker within a term…Boehner became the fifth Speaker to resign, in a 226-year period.”
After weeks of potential replacements had been mentioned, such as Kevin McCarthy, Jeb Hensarling, Tom Price, and Steve Scalise, the nomination was given to Representative Paul Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin.
Paul Ryan is a popular figure on Capitol Hill and is considered “one of the best-known Republicans in the country.” By all accounts, Paul Ryan was interested in politics from a young age and worked as an intern for Wisconsin Senator, Bob Kasten while Ryan was in college at Miami University.
After graduation, with the urgings of his mother, Speaker Ryan accepted a position as a legislative aide to Senator Kasten until the Senator lost his election race in November of 1992.
A believer in Ayn Rand and her teachings regarding individual rights, distrust of big government, and government intervention, Paul Ryan’s popularity has been growing drastically since he was first elected to the House in 1998 at age of 28, at the time, making him the second-youngest member of the House of Representatives.
Prior to his nomination and eventual election to the position of speaker of the House, the highlight of his political career was being chosen as Mitt Romney’s vice presidential candidate during the 2012 election. Back during the 2012 election, Romney’s choice of Ryan as his vice presidential candidate was met with a mixed responses ranging from claims that is was a genius selection to assertions that it was a massive head scratcher.
When Mitt Romney announced Paul Ryan to be his running mate, they did it in grand fashion with both of them stepping out onto the deck of the USS Wisconsin to the music from “Air Force One.”
This caused journalists such as Phillip Rucker and Rosalind S. Helderman of the Washington Post to say “(i)n tapping the conservative star, Romney inextricably tied himself to Ryan’s controversial vision for erasing the country’s red ink.”
After the Romney-Ryan campaign lost the 2012 election, Paul Ryan returned to the House as Chairman of the House Budget Committee until January of 2015 where he then became Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
In the initial aftermath of the resignation of Speaker Boehner, Paul Ryan, like many in the Republican Party, endorsed Representative Kevin McCarthy of California to be the Republican nominee for the vacated speaker position.
Representative McCarthy was seen by Washington insiders as the heir apparent to John Boehner, and Ryan publicly put his support behind Representative McCarthy while saying that he would not run for speaker because “it’s a good job for an empty nester.”
Only after a small, yet powerful group of conservatives prevented McCarthy from replacing Boehner did Ryan decide to throw his proverbial hat into the ring.
With the Republican Party nominating Ryan for the position and holding the majority in the House, Ryan was seen as the odds-on favorite to win the election and on October 29th, he won the election, receiving a reported “236 of the 432 votes cast.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., received 184, Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Fla., got 9 votes” as per USA Today, making him the 54th speaker of the House and the youngest at 45 since 1869.
In his speech before his fellow members of the House, he asserted some bold words saying, “Let’s be frank: The House is broken…We are not settling scores…We are wiping the slate clean.”
He also stressed the need to “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.” These are bold words for a man tasked with running half of the Legislative Branch. Only time will tell how he will perform.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, November 3rd print edition.
Contact Guillermo at