Alongside the drama of the 2016 Presidential elections, Congress has been brewing up an equally theatrical side show in what is now a month-long attempt to elect a new Speaker of the House. In late September, Speaker of the House John Boehner announced his plan to retire at the end of October, citing a divided House, internal conflict, and an inspirational meeting with the Pope among his reasons. Far learning Conservatives in the House were pushing for Boehner to take a stance the Speaker saw as too firm in the budget debates with Democrats; Boehner hopes to avoid “irreparable harm to the institution” by stepping down.
Following the September 25th announcement, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy emerged as the clear favorite to follow Boehner; the 50 year old from California quickly earned a majority of his party’s votes, but soon met opposition from the most conservative wing of the Republican House following his Benghazi gaffe. In an interview in early October, Boehner drew too close a line connecting the current Benghazi hearings to Hillary’s campaign, implying the committee was responsible, possibly intentionally so, for Hillary’s drop in polls. With conservatives calling for his head, McCarthy surprised Republicans by promptly dropping out once he realized he could not secure the 218 votes needed.
Enter Paul Ryan, the energetic young Wisconsin representative who now serves as chair of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. Ryan rose to fame after receiving the nod to be Mitt Romney’s VP in 2012, this presidential election was the first and only election Ryan has lost. Ryan has strong backing from the conservative Freedom Caucus, the same group of conservatives who pushed for Boehner’s resignation. Ryan also has strong support from more main-line Republicans – by all indications, he will win Thursday’s election for Speaker.
This internal drama comes at a crucial time in the house’s legislative process, for months, parties struggled reach an agreement on a budget plan to avoid shutdown, and only Monday, in Boehner’s last week in office, did the house finally agree on a plan to avoid shutdown. Ryan, and members of both the far left and right are not pleased with decision, but, given the fact a majority of representatives agree with the bill at least means the government will remain open, at least for now.