Nearly all of Georgia’s Republican congressmen indicated they are backing Paul Ryan for speaker as the party looks to unify and clear the legislative decks before President-elect Donald Trump takes office in January.
Nine of the 10 GOP lawmakers who will represent the state in Congress in 2017 have committed to supporting the Wisconsin Republican for Capitol Hill’s most powerful position when the conference privately casts its votes Tuesday. Only newcomer Drew Ferguson, the former West Point mayor who was elected to replace the retiring U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland last week, was silent on whether he would support Ryan, who does not face any formal opposition.
“Now’s not the time for us to be throwing stones at each other,” said U.S. Rep. Jody Hice of Monroe, a member of the House Freedom Caucus, a rabble-rousing group with several members who previously raised questions about Ryan’s commitment to conservative values. “Now’s the time to unify and start the work that the American people have sent us here to do.”
U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler, when he was asked last week about potential challenges to Ryan’s leadership, invoked a famous John Boehner quote that the job of speaker is akin to keeping 218 frogs in a wheelbarrow.
“It’s difficult, but Paul knows that. He understands that,” Carter said. “But Paul’s going to be fine. He’s a great leader, he’s a great speaker, and I’m excited to support him.”
Ryan’s rise to the speakership was serendipitous after Boehner announced he was stepping down amid pressure from conservatives in September 2015. But his first year on the job was nothing if not a baptism by fire.
Much like Boehner before him, Ryan was forced to contend with trouble from both the left and the right that hamstrung his ability to pass even routine legislation. Agreeing on a nonbinding budget for the year proved to be particularly challenging as GOP lawmakers bickered over how much money to dole out to nonmilitary purposes in particular.
Ahead of last week’s election, there were rumblings that dissatisfied members of the Freedom Caucus were considering challenging him for his post or cutting a deal to get one of their own in the GOP’s leadership circle.
However, it appears that much of the pressure has faded over the past week — at least for now — amid the GOP euphoria that came after Trump unexpectedly netted the White House and the party retained control of both chambers of Congress. As of Monday evening, no Republicans had stepped up to challenge Ryan internally.
The avoidance of a messy leadership fight will help the party as it looks to wrap up old business ahead of Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20 and clear the way for legislative priorities such as an overhaul of health care, immigration and tax policies.
House Republicans will vote for their leaders by secret ballot Tuesday morning. Democrats are expected to hold their own party elections on Thursday, and all House lawmakers will verbally cast their votes for speaker on the floor of the chamber in January. In order to win, a candidate must secure 218 votes.