US POLITICS

Paul Ryan poised to take US Speaker's seat, after winning Republican ballot

The former Republican vice-presidential nominee has vowed to unify the party

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 October, 2015, 9:20pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 October, 2015, 9:20pm
AP

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Republicans in the US House of Representatives have nominated Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan to become the chamber's next speaker, hoping he can lead them out of weeks of disarray and point them towards accomplishments they can highlight in next year's elections.

The 45-year-old Ryan was his party's 2012 vice-presidential nominee and is considered a telegenic spokesman for conservative priorities. If elected speaker, he would assume one of the most powerful political offices in the United States and a job that puts him second in line of succession to become president.

Ryan won on a secret ballot of the House's 247 Republicans on Wednesday.

Current speaker John Boehner unexpectedly announced his resignation last month. He came under pressure from hardline conservatives who considered him too timid in challenging President Barack Obama and too autocratic in punishing Republican lawmakers who defied him. The full House was expected to elect Ryan as speaker yesterday.

At Wednesday's closed-door meeting, Ryan told House Republicans what he wouldn't do as speaker. "I don't plan to be Caesar, calling all the shots around here," Congressman Matt Salmon reported after the session.

That seemed to be a reference to demands hardline conservatives have made to transfer more power over legislation from House leaders to rank-and-file lawmakers.

"This begins a new day in the House of Representatives," Ryan told reporters after the vote.

"We are not going to have a House that looked like it looked the last few years. We are going to move forward, we are going to unify," he said.

Lawmakers expressed satisfaction that the weeks-long drama among House Republicans seemed to be coming to a close.

"Everybody could almost feel the relief inside the room that we've got the right leader at the right time that can bring us together," congressman Tom Cole said.

But some political intrigue lingers. Lawmakers leaving the vote said Ryan had secured only 200 votes in the Republican conference, leaving him shy of the 218 needed for outright victory yesterday on the floor of the 435-member chamber. But they expressed confidence Ryan would secure well above the 218 mark on the final vote.

"I think the overwhelming majority of the conference is ready to move on, and (we are) in the 230s on that," congressman Greg Walden told reporters.

Daniel Webster, who mounted a rebellious bid for House speaker when Boehner announced his resignation, received 43 votes, lawmakers said.

Webster, a little known Florida congressman who pledged to seek a greater role for rank-and-file lawmakers, had been endorsed earlier in the race by the House Freedom Caucus, a group of about 40 core conservatives who had turned on Boehner.

Several of them voted against Ryan, but a member of the group, Raul Labrador, expected most would back Ryan in the floor vote.

"We're cautiously optimistic that he's going to change the way we're doing things here," Labrador said of Ryan.

Even Webster himself wanted a single ballot yesterday.

"In the end, I know we made an impact," he said.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse