By Scott Wong – 10/29/15 10:36 AM EDT
Lawmakers on Thursday elected Rep. Paul Ryan as the 54th Speaker of the House, putting an end to weeks of uncertainty over who would lead the raucous 247-member GOP conference after John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) surprise resignation.
On a day filled with pomp and excitement, the Wisconsin Republican received 236 votes for Speaker — more than the 218 needed to win on the first ballot. His only challenger, little-known Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.), whom Ryan defeated in an internal GOP election Wednesday, received 9 votes on the floor.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), a former Speaker herself who will present the gavel to Ryan, received 184 votes, all from Democrats.
Three votes were cast for other candidates: former Rep. Jim Cooper (R-Tenn.), Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Colin Powell.
Webster did not vote, nor did Ryan.
The nine lawmakers who voted for Webster were Reps. Dave Brat (Va.), Curt Clawson (Fla.), Louie Gohmert (Texas), Paul Gosar (Ariz.), Walter Jones (N.C.), Thomas Massie (Ky.), Bill Posey (Fla.), Randy Weber (Texas) and Ted Yoho (Fla.).
Ryan’s election gives House Republicans a chance to hit the reset button. Throughout Boehner’s nearly five years as Speaker, centrist members and Tea Party conservatives were at war with each other over policy and tactics.
Now, it’s all Ryan’s problem.
He has made peace with conservative hard-liners for now, saying he’s open to rules changes that will bring more rank-and-file members into the decision-making process. And Boehner helped “clean out the barn” for Ryan this week, ensuring his successor won’t face any major fiscal crises until after the 2016 election.
“If he’s committed to the process changes that he’s espoused, a honeymoon could last well into the first and second anniversary,” said conservative Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), who authored a resolution this summer that sparked a debate over whether to oust Boehner from power.
“If the actions follow the rhetoric we’ve heard, it will be a monumental and historic time for the Hill and the way we do business.”
After he takes the oath of office, Ryan will give a speech declaring it a new day in Congress.
“We have nothing to fear from honest differences honestly stated. If you have ideas, let’s hear them,” Ryan will tell his colleagues. “A greater clarity between us can lead to a greater charity among us.”
Before his election, Ryan was spotted on the first floor of the Capitol, sharing a few laughs with his old boss, former Rep. Sam Brownback, now the Republican governor of Kansas. He hugged family members, friends and staffers.
Asked by The Hill how he was feeling, Ryan replied: “Great!”
Ryan’s wife Janna and their three children — ages 13, 12 and 10 — looked on from the Speaker’s Box, as did 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his wife Ann. Mitt Romney tapped Ryan as his vice presidential running mate that summer.
At just 45, Ryan, a fitness fanatic, is the youngest Speaker in roughly 150 years. He also the first to hail from the Badger State and the first to jump directly from Ways and Means chairman to the Speaker’s office.
Thursday marks the fifth time in the last century the House has voted to elect a new Speaker midway through a term.
In an interview, Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), one of Ryan’s closest friends in Congress, called it a “good day.”
“I’m not sure he really wanted to reach this [pinnacle],” Hensarling said, “but the republic needed him and he’s answering its call.”
After a quarter-century career in Congress, Boehner now returns to private life. He is submitting letters to Ryan and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a former House GOP colleague, informing them that his resignation is effective Friday.
Boehner will fly back to Ohio that same day.
This story was updated at 10:51 a.m.