Paul Ryan elected Speaker of the House

Rep. Paul Ryan. © Jonathan Ernst
Republican Paul Ryan of Wisconsin was elected Speaker of the House, defeating Democrat Nancy Pelosi. The 45-year-old has become the youngest congressman to serve as the House leader since 1869.

Of the 432 votes cast, 236 went to Ryan and 184 to Pelosi.

Ryan is is now second in line to succeed to the US presidency, in case both the president and the vice-president become incapacitated.

He replaced John Boehner of Ohio, who announced his retirement the day after Pope Francis addressed a joint session of Congress in September.

Boehner’s resignation and the struggle to find a replacement revealed deep divisions within the Republican Party. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, of California, withdrew his candidacy, and it took a while to persuade Ryan to toss his hat into the ring. In the GOP conference vote on Wednesday, Ryan defeated Daniel Webster of Florida 200 votes to 43.

First elected to Congress in 1998, Ryan rose to prominence through the House Budget Committee, which he chaired from 2011 to 2015. The Republican budget proposals for 2012 and 2013 were colloquially known as the “Ryan budget.”

He was Mitt Romney’s running mate in the 2012 presidential election, losing to the incumbent Barack Obama and Joseph Biden.

The outgoing speaker Boehner, well-known for shedding a tear at emotional moments, earned a standing ovation before his farewell speech by getting a box of tissues. He did not reach for it, however, as he recalled Ryan starting out as a volunteer for his campaign in the early 1990s, and wished the Wisconsin congressman the best in wrangling the House.

The battle over the size, scope and cost of government “has been going on for more than 200 years,” Boehner noted, advising his colleagues that “real change takes time.”

The Democrats nominated current Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as their candidate for Speaker. Most lawmakers signaled their support for either Ryan or Pelosi during the roll-call vote – with a few exceptions.

Jim Cooper, a Tennessee Democrat, voted for “General Colin Powell,” while leading fellow Democrat Gwen Graham of Florida proclaimed “Jim Cooper” a little later. Another Democrat, Krysten Sinema of Arizona, voted for John Lewis of Georgia instead of Pelosi.

Nine Republicans bucked the party leadership and voted for Florida representative Daniel Webster.