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It’s been seven weeks since former Rep. John Boehner resigned his post as Speaker of the House and passed the gavel off to Wisconsin Rep. Paul D. Ryan - who seemed anything but eager to take the job.
But since assuming the top position in the House, Ryan has changed his tune, now calling it “an absolute honor” to lead the chamber.
“When John Boehner threw the curveball of his unanticipated resignation, it threw the place into a bit of chaos. Members were very worried about where this was all going. It looked like Congress was going to seize up and come to a screeching halt,” Ryan recounted Friday with a group of reporters.
“Over the last seven weeks,” he continued, “I think what we tried to do was put the train back on the tracks. Restore a more open process, a more deliberative process and a more participatory process.”
Boehner was pushed out of the speakership in October after conservatives within the conference bucked his top-down type leadership style and said they had lost faith in him to push for their values.
While Ryan would not critique Boehner directly, he did put some distance between himself and his party's former leader.
“I don’t spend my time looking back on this stuff. I’m a different style, a different person. I have an idea of what to do and what it is, is to listen to the members and ask what they want to see,” he said.
While conservatives say the true test will come next year, many are already cautiously optimistic.
“That open dialogue is to be applauded regardless of where the answer is, whether you like the answer or not, at least there is a give or take,” Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) -- who was the member to file a motion advocating Boehner's ouster -- said Thursday about Ryan’s style.
Friday marked a big test in leadership for Ryan, who needed to secure enough Republican votes to pass a major spending bill that failed to include several conservative wants, including addressing Syrian refugees and defunding Planned Parenthood.
One hundred and fifty House Republicans ended up voting in favor of the $1.1 trillion dollar spending bill – commonly called the omnibus. Many, including the Speaker himself, viewed the number as a vote of confidence for Ryan.
“I think they want me to be successful so they can help us be successful as a team, so that’s why a lot of people voted for an omnibus bill probably for the first time,” Ryan said. He called the vote a “big page turning exercise” and vowed that the appropriations process will be different next year.
Leadership negotiated the omnibus for weeks, marking the first time Ryan really worked with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. Everyone, according to the Speaker, approached the negotiations “with professionalism” but said they are still getting to know each other.
While there is still a lot to tackle next year, Ryan already believes he has seen several “highs” since assuming the post, including passing major bills addressing education, transportation, customs and tax reform, as well as lifting the ban on crude oil in the omnibus.
What helped prepare Ryan for this job? Running as the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee, he says.
“It gave me such a wealth of knowledge and a ton of experience that I just don’t get rattled or phased anymore,” the Speaker said just before departing Washington for the year. “The adjustment into this job wasn’t that difficult for my family given what we had already done.”