Plenty of important things happened in 1869 — Ulysses S. Grant was inaugurated, the first college football game was held, even War and Peace was published. It was also the last time America had a Speaker of the House as young as Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.). At 45, the Wisconsin dad won’t just be putting a new face on the GOP, but an energetic one. Of course, what the former VP candidate lacks in age, he more than makes up for in experience. As the Washington Post points out, he’s logged 6,143 days in the House (only 1,000 less than John Boehner) — and he’ll need every bit of that practice to help pull Republicans out of the mire they find themselves in.
Fortunately, the debt ceiling deal, which Boehner intentionally negotiated away from Ryan, is all but settled after Wednesday’s vote. At the very least, that should give the 54th Speaker the fresh start his party was hoping for. Included in that fresh start, conservatives hope, is a greater emphasis on the party’s core values. It’s time to reinforce the three legs of the conservative stool — social, fiscal, and defense.
It’s a tall task, but not an impossible one. As Ryan challenged members, “We have nothing to fear from honest differences honestly stated. If you have ideas, let’s hear them. A greater clarity between us can lead to a greater charity among us.” Striking a hopeful tone, he vowed, “We are not going to have a House that looks like it’s looked the last two years. We are going to move forward. We are going to unify. Our party has lost its vision and we are going to replace it with [one].”
In many ways, the party never lost its vision. Leadership just failed to grasp it. What the majority needs in Paul Ryan is someone who reflects the strong conservatism of the voters who put them there. “When Republicans can’t stay unified enough to provide 218 votes for their agenda,” the Wall Street Journal warned, “the result is not more conservative reform. It’s more leverage for more liberal government.” With a string of budget battles barreling down the tracks, the first tests of the Ryan era aren’t far off. They’re also in the Wisconsinite’s wheelhouse.
A well-respected fiscal voice, Speaker Ryan will have an opportunity to bring some sanity to the fire-wagon budgeting under John Boehner. For once, the GOP has the opportunity to respect the appropriations process and stop the last-minute gamesmanship that’s led to a series of irresponsible, short-term spending band aids. Under Paul Ryan, Republicans have an opportunity to get back to the business of intentional governing. They also have a chance to regroup and remember who the opposition is (hint: it’s not the GOP).
As he said in his acceptance speech earlier today, “When people look at Washington, and all they see is chaos,what a relief to them it would be if we finally got our act together — what a weight off their shoulders… Nothing can stir the heart more than real, concrete results.” We look forward to working toward those results with the new House team. Congratulations, Speaker Ryan!
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