While originally telling his supporters and the media that he would like to stay on the Ways and Means Committee rather than running to replace John Boehner as Speaker of the House, it now seems like Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has had his opinion swayed by his colleagues in Congress.
Even Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) endorsed Ryan, calling himself a fan, but clarifying to the media that while he might be the best person to replace Boehner, “I say to my allies, rest assured, I’ll continue to oppose Congressman Ryan’s plans to privatize Social Security, to privatize Medicare, and if not to privatize Social Security certainly to slash it the way he talks about.”
So, other than being the Mitt Romney’s 2012 Vice President pick, what has Paul Ryan done that makes him the Speaker that the House needs?
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) told the Washington Post that Ryan is, simply, the “smartest guy in the room.”
Last week, Ryan stressed that he would only want to run for Speaker if the position allowed him more off time than it currently does. He wants to spend time with his family. He wants to be able to take the time off to raise his children, which has caused many to criticize his efforts to shoot down legislation that would allow paid family leave to women after they give birth.
Ryan voted against the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act in 2009. He did co-sponsor the Working Families Flexibility Act in 2013, a somewhat deceiving title which, in actuality, didn’t give parents paid leave. Huffington Post wrote that it was a “cloaked” bill that was “really just another attempt by Republicans to get rid of paid overtime.”
His view on abortion lines up with other conservatives in Congress.
Ryan has supported the efforts to defund Planned Parenthood. A pro-life member of Congress, told WJHL in Roanoke, Va that “I’m very proud of my pro-life record, and I’ve always adopted the idea that, the position that the method of conception doesn’t change the definition of life.”
He said during the 2012 Vice Presidential debate that “My faith informs me about how to take care of the vulnerable, about how to make sure that people have a chance in life. Now, you want to ask basically why I’m pro-life? It’s not simply because of my Catholic faith. That’s a factor, but it’s also because of reason and science. I believe that life begins at conception.”
He then went on to say that the platform of the Romney-Ryan ticket would make the exception of abortions being allowed in cases of rape and incest. He voted for the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act in 2011, HR5939 in 2010, and the Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act in 2011 which also allowed the exception.
On social issues, Ryan certainly matches with most of his conservative colleagues. He has voted against same-sex marriage, as well as trying to prohibit the adoption of children by gay couples.
He said in 2004 that “I believe fundamentally that marriage is between a man and a woman. Although I support the constitutional amendment to protect marriage, that process cannot continue at this time given the failed attempt by the U.S. Senate to advance the amendment. Meanwhile, states could be forced to accept same-sex marriages because of a few judges in Massachusetts. This legislation protects each state’s right to protect marriage.”
When it comes to immigration issues, Ryan doesn’t resort to the xenophobic attitudes displayed by many conservatives in Congress. Instead, he seems optimistic that the system can be fixed to provide a fast way to legally immigrate. However, during a speech at Hillsdale College, he told students that allowing too many to come work in the country will create “the incentive for more to come.”
He said during an episode of CBS’s “Face the Nation” in 2013:
“We should approach this issue on what we think is the right thing to do. We have been listening to the American people. So what we’re going to do is take a step-by-step approach to get immigration right, not a big massive bill. Number one, we don’t have control of our border. And we need interior enforcement to know who’s coming and going. And right now, people come to this country based on family relations, not based on skills. Most other countries have a legal immigration system that’s good for their country, we should do the same. And when it comes to the undocumented, people who came here illegally, we want to give people a chance to get right with the law while not doing an amnesty. Pay fines, pay back taxes, get a background check, learn English, learn civics.”
During that same episode, he addressed the topic of NSA surveillance. Just two months before, leaked documents from Edward Snowden revealed the broad range the agency had when it comes to collecting and saving bulk data on Americans. “We do have to do more, I believe, to protect our liberties without sacrificing our national security. And I think that can be done,” Ryan said. ”There was a vote to defund the entire program. I didn’t support that vote, because I think the smarter way to go about it is rewrite the law.”
The Political Scoreboard on DecidetheFuture.org, which rates members of Congress based on the actions they’ve taken regarding surveillance reform, gives Paul Ryan a C- and puts him in the “Unclear” category. Another member who was put into the same category? Speaker Boehner.
When it comes down to it, Ryan is very much a numbers guy. He may be more valuable to his party in the House Ways and Means Committee than as speaker. Speakers get lots of press coverage, but without Ways and Means, nothing gets funded. His colleagues in Congress have to weigh the costs of losing one of their best voices on possibly the most important committee against the benefits of a Speaker with some name recognition.
Ryan has opposed government spending from his influential seat, especially when it comes to programs that he views as “lull[ing] able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency”. He has sought to cut and reform Medicare, most recently by attempting to institute premium-support vouchers, which would help private insurers, and raise the age of eligibility from 65 to 67.
In 2014 he created a plan that would merge 11 federal programs, and then have the states apply for the money within one grant. This would give the states the power to manage the allocation of funds towards their own programs.
Ryan co-introduced the Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission Act along with Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) which would create a commission led by appointed experts, as well as leaders in Congress, to use data and investigation to decide which government programs were efficient, and which needed to be heavily reformed.
The Speaker position has been consistent in taking limited action by voting, instead being used as a tiebreaker of sorts. Paul Ryan’s 2014 “Report Card” compiled by GovTrack.us shows that Ryan only missed four votes out of 1,204 in the 113th Congress period. He introduced seven bills during this period, three of which passed the House, and one of which passed the Senate (the Budget Bill in 2013.)
Ryan seems like the best man for the job in the eyes of some because he is a fiscal conservative straight white male. It doesn’t hurt that he knows how to back-up his arguments and is well-versed in political rhetoric. He’s young, popular, and toes the party line. This is why, when they vote for Boehner’s replacement once again, House Republicans will be comforted by the idea of Ryan as Speaker.