House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) got the gavel this morning as the votes in the House Freedom Caucus mostly went his way, giving him more than enough to become speaker of the House.
At 45 years old, Ryan becomes the youngest speaker of the House since 1869 — that was another Republican, James Blaine of Maine. Ryan was first elected at age 28.
The morning prayer began with a guest pastor — Ryan’s hometown priest from his hometown parish, St. John Vianney Roman Catholic Church in Janesville, Wis.
Ryan’s former running mate, Mitt Romney, along with Ann Romney came to the House to mark the occasion. His family watched the House vote alongside the Romneys.
Ryan appeared on the House floor, as members trickled in, talking extensively with House Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio). Jordan voted for the caucus’ official candidate, Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.), in the closed caucus meeting on Wednesday, but switched his vote to Ryan today. Ryan was also seen in a friendly chat with Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).
Webster got 43 votes in the caucus meeting, but this morning was asking colleagues not to call out his name for speaker in the floor vote.
Before a new speaker was elected, though, the notoriously emotional outgoing speaker bid his farewell to Congress. He brought box of kleenex, making the House erupt in applause. By the end of his speech, he was using them.
“I leave with no regrets, no burdens. If anything I leave the way I started just a regular guy humbled” by his “big job.”
“The people’s House is in my view the great embodiment of the American dream,” Boehner said, declaring that “more work” had been done across the past four or five years “than the previous 25 years” of his House service.
He gave a final needle to his more casual colleagues: “Some of you could learn to dress better — you know who you are,” Boehner said to laughter and applause.
“Once you’re part of Boehnerland, you’re always part of Boehnerland,” he quipped of his staff.
Ryan was nominated by Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) “In the House we are eager for a fresh start that will make us more effective,” she said, stressing there’s “no better person to lead us” than Ryan.
Democratic Conference Chairman Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) nominated “proven leader” Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to get the gavel again.
There were no more nominations.
The final tally was 236 votes for Ryan; he needed 218. Pelosi’s votes totaled 184, while Webster received nine votes and others received three.
Many of Boehner’s critics cast their votes for Ryan, including Reps. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.), Ken Buck (R-Colo.), Tim Huelskamp (R-Kansas), Steve King (R-Iowa), Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.), Dave Schweikert (R-Ariz.), and Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.).
Salmon explained his vote by stressing that Ryan “has promised to reform the Rules of the House, devolving power to the membership instead of wielding it to achieve ends that the majority of our Republican conference doesn’t support.”
“To that end, he has also committed to once again enforcing the Hastert Rule; that legislation won’t be brought to the floor without support from a majority of the majority party,” Salmon added.
In fact, out of the 25 Republicans who revolted against Boehner in January’s speaker election, 15 cast their votes for Ryan today.
Pelosi voted for herself; Ryan did not vote. Webster also did not vote. Boehner waited until the end and voted for Ryan.
Those voting for Webster: Reps. Dave Brat (R-Va.), Curt Clawson (R-Fla.), Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), Walt Jones (R-N.C.), Tom Massie (R-Ky.), Bill Posey (R-Fla.), Randy Weber (R-Texas), and Ted Yoho (R-Fla.).
Blue Dog Coalition Chairman Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) voted for Colin Powell; coalition member Gwen Graham (D-Fla.) voted for Cooper. Blue Dog Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) voted for Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.).
With a thumb’s up, Boehner left the speaker’s rostrum for the last time and exchanged hugs and lots of cheek kisses with other members during an extended standing ovation.
Pelosi hailed a teary Boehner as “the personification of the American dream.”
She also told House Republicans that Boehner was “always true and loyal to the members of his caucus in any negotiations we had.”
Ryan was sworn in by the dean of the House, 86-year-old Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), who is serving his 26th term in the lower chamber.
“Today on behalf of House Democrats I extend the hand of friendship to you,” Pelosi told Ryan before handing him the gavel.
“I never thought I’d be speaker, but early in my life I wanted to serve this House… to me, the House of Representatives represents what is best about America — the boundless opportunity to do good,” Ryan said.
Ryan noted that the House is “broken,” but said he wouldn’t get into a blame game over it. “We are not settling scores,” he vowed. “We are wiping the slate clean.”
He promised that committees will “take the lead in drafting all major legislation” as well as a return to regular order. He stressed that legislators are not supposed to “echo the people,” but represent them.
“We should not hide our disagreements; we should embrace them. We have nothing to fear from honest differences, honestly stated,” Ryan said.
“Let us say that we left the people — all the people — more happy, united, and free.”