With the surprise recent resignation announcement of Republican Ohio Rep. John Boehner, the question became less about who would take the reins as House speaker, but why would anyone want the job?
Though the position sits just two spots away in the order of succession for the presidency, it is a grueling, mostly thankless job. It requires long hours, mind-numbing fundraising calls and an overall sense that no matter what you do, it will be hated by a vocal faction of your own party.
Even with the relatively quick implosion of the candidacy of Republican House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, heir apparent and former vice presidential candidate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, announced he did not want the job; full stop.
But as no major candidate within the GOP was forthcoming, Ryan began to bend to outside pressure to take up the call for the good of his own party. He laid out an ultimatum to those asking him to run: He wouldn’t do it unless they met his conditions. He didn’t want a repeat of Boehner’s term in which the 40 or so members of the Freedom Caucus threw a monkey wrench into the gears of government every time they didn’t get their way. He would only consider taking the job if unity was in order.
After some handwringing, most of this conservative wing signed off on Ryan’s speakership. Within hours, the dominoes fell. A budget deal was passed, Boehner passed off the gavel, and Ryan became the 54th person to hold the job. He said the House was “broken,” but that by listening to the most ideologically conservative members, change was possible.
“We need to let every member contribute — not once they have their stripes but right now,” he said. “Open up the process. Let people participate. And they might change their tune. A neglected minority will gum up the works. A respected minority will work in good faith.”
We hope he’s right. Even if you’re not a Republican, you shouldn’t wish for the current state of gridlock to continue. Our government requires a functioning legislative branch. Let’s hope Ryan is up to the task.