CAPITOL HILL - A monthlong leadership crisis in the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to end this week with the election of Republican Congressman Paul Ryan as speaker.
Ryan would succeed John Boehner, who announced his resignation from Congress last month after years of often-futile attempts to unify warring factions within his Republican caucus.
"This is not a job I ever wanted or I ever sought,” said Ryan, slated to become the first reluctant House speaker in modern American history.
He is no stranger to the national stage, having served as the Republican vice presidential nominee in 2012. And, he is no stranger to the workings of Congress, having co-authored a 2013 fiscal deal with Democrats that limits federal spending to this day.
Young, telegenic and articulate, Ryan advocates bedrock Republican principles while conveying optimism, sincerity and no meanness of spirit.
“I still think we are an exceptional country with exceptional people and a republic clearly worth fighting for,” said Ryan last week. “It’s not too late to save the American idea, but we are running out of time.
"Make no mistake: I believe that the ideas and principles of results-driven, common-sense conservatism are the keys to a better tomorrow, a tomorrow in which all of God’s children will be better off than they are today,” he added.
“I think Paul Ryan would make a great speaker,” Boehner said days ago. “He works hard, very bright, and he has good relationships, I think, with all the wings of the party.”
Ryan said he would only serve as speaker if Republicans unified behind him. That unity will be put to the test almost immediately with critical votes on matters such as raising the federal government’s borrowing limit by November 3 or risk a U.S. debt default.
'Serious as it gets'
“It’s as serious as it gets for our economy, for interest rates. This has a direct impact on the lives of the American people,” said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi who, like President Barack Obama, is demanding a conditions-free hike of the debt ceiling.
Ryan will have to contend with the same ultra-conservative Republican faction that bedeviled Boehner’s leadership with demands of a no-holds-barred opposition to Obama’s agenda and a focus on shrinking the size of government at all costs.
Ryan shares such policy goals but will be constrained as speaker by current political realities, according to his allies.
“Divided government is very difficult. It’s frustrating,” said Republican Congressman Joe Pitts. “But it’s what the American people have given us.”
Ryan is expected to be endorsed by the House Republican caucus Wednesday, and elected speaker by the full House Thursday.