U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, is willing to serve as speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. This is an opportunity for Republicans to start winning in Washington, as a congressional majority should.
For Ryan to take charge, the Wisconsin Republican needs support of arch-conservatives within his party. He met with the three major House Republican caucuses Tuesday and said he would serve if they agreed to give up their ability to call for a "motion to vacate the chair," a relatively simple means of dismissing a speaker. It is a reasonable request, given that one cannot lead with an instant recall option in the hands of colleagues who may disagree with decisions.
Ryan's other major demand was consensus support from the conservative Republican Study Committee, the more moderate Tuesday Group and the House Freedom Caucus — a group of about 40 that almost took the self-deprecating moniker "Reasonable Nut Job Caucus" when it formed in January. If Ryan is to take this messy job, he doesn't want continuation of an intra-party schism.
The Freedom Caucus is largely credited and blamed with the resignation of House Speaker John Boehner, who seldom found a fight with Democrats he wasn't willing to surrender. Late Wednesday, the Caucus issued a statement indicating support for Ryan within the group.
The statement said no consensus was reached on Ryan's preconditions for serving, but expressed confidence in a positive resolution to lingering concerns about them.
The only Coloradan in the caucus is U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, whose Fourth Congressional District wraps around Colorado Springs on the north, east and south. He spoke with The Gazette's editorial board Wednesday and said he remained undecided, but open to supporting Ryan.
Under Boehner's leadership, conservatives have been blamed for threatening to "shut down government" by stopping taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood. Boehner failed to adequately counter the unfair charge. Only the president's veto pen, not an omnibus bill from the House and Senate, would shut down Washington. Boehner failed to highlight the obstruction of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, who caused the need for an emergency funding bill this fall by blocking votes on 100 percent of Republican appropriation bills.
"Because Ryan is chairman of Ways and Means, and former chairman of the House Budget Committee, I think he can more effectively communicate our positions," Buck said.
Buck hopes Ryan would do a good job listening to and working with diverse factions of House Republicans, bringing unity to rancorous disunion.
Ryan's 16-year congressional record should quell conservative concerns about electing a moderate who is too quick to appease the other party. Ryan's conservative ratings include 93 percent from the NRA; 100 percent from the National Right to Life Committee; 100 percent from the Campaign for Working Families; a 90 percent lifetime score from the American Conservative Union; and 100 percent ratings from multiple pro-business interests. He has a 0 percent rating from Planned Parenthood, which the Freedom Caucus hopes to defund,
Ryan articulates a credible commitment to leading the Republican majority back to a position of relevance. He effectively chairs one of Washington's power committees because he knows how to get things done. He works with diverse individuals and groups, exploiting common ground to achieve constructive outcomes. He likes new ideas. Expect similar performance if he becomes government's third highest-ranking man.
We urge House Republicans to vote for Ryan, and to subsequently trust and support his leadership. Under Ryan's watch, the House majority might achieve results for the good of all.