Republicans pick Ryan for speaker; House passes budget deal

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 28, 2015 9:59 AM

By Susan Cornwell and David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republicans made Paul Ryan their choice to be the next speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday as the chamber passed a major budget and debt limit deal that would launch his tenure with far less risk of a major fiscal standoff.

The nomination puts the Wisconsin congressman and 2012 Republican vice presidential candidate on track to replace retiring Speaker John Boehner on Thursday, marking a transition to a potentially more conservative House leadership stance.

"Our party has lost its vision and we're going to replace it with a vision," Ryan told reporters after the vote.

The House later voted 266-167 to pass a two-year budget deal negotiated by Boehner, the White House and other congressional leaders that clears the decks for the new speaker and relieves market worries over a possible default next week.

The plan extends the federal debt limit through March 2017 and eases automatic spending caps to add $80 billion in new discretionary spending over two years.

A provision to cut crop insurance subsidies by $3 billion to help pay for the deal was removed from the bill at the last minute, according to House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway. Farm-state lawmakers had objected to the cut.

Supported by Ryan, the deal won only 79 Republican votes, and was carried by votes from 187 Democrats. Ryan has pledged that he will not bring future legislation to the floor unless it can win the support of a majority of the 247 House Republicans.

The budget deal now moves to the Senate, where some conservatives have vowed to try to block its progress with procedural hurdles.

If passed by the Senate, Ryan's first major task as speaker will be to implement the budget plan with a major multi-agency spending bill needed by Dec. 11.

In the closed-door speaker nomination contest, Ryan won 200 votes to Representative Daniel Webster's 43. This was short of the 218 needed for election in Thursday's House vote but some conservative Webster supporters said they would switch their votes to Ryan.

Ryan's nomination caps weeks of turmoil as Republicans have struggled to unite behind a replacement for Boehner, who is expected to retire from Congress on Friday.

Ryan has never served in House leadership, but heads the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee and is widely respected among conservative Republicans for his budget plans. These have proposed deep cuts to social safety net programs and the effective privatization of Medicare coverage for seniors.

As speaker, he would be next in line to the U.S. presidency after the vice president.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said she had a "great deal of respect" for Ryan despite their differences, because "he knows the issues, he knows the rules."

Ryan said he wanted a more bottom-up approach to tackle fiscal issues long before hitting deadlines such as the one to raise the debt ceiling by Tuesday.

He told House Republicans on Wednesday morning he would not run the House like a Roman emperor.

"I don't plan to be Caesar, calling all the shots around here," he said, according to a lawmaker in the room.

(Additional reporting by Andy Sullivan and Richard Cowan; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Tom Brown)