Paul Ryan easily wins first full term as House speaker

Paul Ryan on Tuesday easily won election to his first full term as House speaker, demonstrating he has quieted past conservative discontent that led to the ouster of his predecessor, John Boehner.

Ryan won 239-189, and suffered just one Republican defection when Rep. Tom Massie, R-Ky., voted for Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Fla. That’s a major sign of GOP unity in the House, especially coming after Boehner’s last election, when he lost 24 Republicans.

The last Boehner vote was seen as a growing sign of a coup by a large faction of House conservatives who had grown weary of the GOP leadership’s legislative tactics on spending and immigration reform. It also prompted Boehner to retire early in October 2015, when Ryan was elected to take his place to finish up Boehner’s term.

Ryan quickly earned the support of even the most conservative GOP lawmakers who regularly opposed Boehner. Conservatives said they back Ryan because he includes them in the process, even if they don’t ultimately support the resulting legislation.

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Ryan’s re-election was likely eased by President-elect Donald Trump’s surprise November victory. Trump’s win threw cold water on a plot to possibly unseat Ryan by a group of GOP lawmakers who were angry at Ryan for abandoning Trump’s campaign last summer after an old video surfaced showing Trump making lewd comments about women.

Prior to the election, when polls showed Trump headed for defeat, disgruntled Trump-backing Republicans talked of voting against Ryan, who they believe turned his back on Trump, even though he did not officially withdraw his endorsement.

Ryan’s win was also enabled by a decision to abandon a rules change that would have made it harder for an individual member call for a vote to eject the speaker.

House Republican Conference Committee Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., nominated Ryan, R-Wis., and praised him for uniting the often fractious GOP and producing a six-part agenda on tax reform, national security, healthcare, welfare and other issues.

“Under his leadership, this think tank of ideas was able to find common ground without compromising our principles,” McMorris Rodgers said.

Ryan, who turns 47 at the end of the month, will preside over a Congress poised to pass a GOP agenda into law for the first time since 2001. Republicans hold the majority in the Senate, while Republican President-elect Trump will take office on January 20.

Ryan will lead the effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act and reform the tax code, two big agenda items Republicans have been hoping to advance for years. Ryan, a former chairman of both the House Budget and Ways and Means Committees, has authored budgets that both repeal Obamacare and reform the tax system.

The vote backing Ryan came just moments after Ryan convinced his rank and file to reverse course on a rules change that would have neutered an outside ethics watchdog office. Ryan opposed the change that would have put the Office of Congressional Ethics under the jurisdiction of the House Ethics Committee, essentially stripping it of its independence.

Ryan was able to convince a majority of his conference to hold off on the change in a closed-door meeting in the House basement.

Several Democrats mocked the last-minute GOP scramble by prefacing their vote for Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., by saying the House should be “ethical and accountable.” Democrats overwhelmingly voted for Pelosi to lead them in the House again, just weeks after she survived a challenge to her leadership by Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio.