Accessibility links

Paul Ryan Ready to Take Charge of the House

Rep. Paul Ryan, R- Wis., speaks at a news conference following a House Republican meeting, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Rep. Paul Ryan, R- Wis., speaks at a news conference following a House Republican meeting, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

If all goes as planned, Rep. Paul Ryan will be elected speaker this week.

The Republican congressman from the state of Wisconsin would be the 62nd House speaker. The speaker is the leader of the 435-member House of Representatives.

He is also second in line to the presidency – behind just the vice president – should the president die or be unable to continue in office.

How tough a job has he accepted? What kind of speaker will he be? And how could he stay home on weekends instead of raising funds for fellow Republicans?

Former Congressman Bob Livingston said Paul Ryan “is a very capable guy, a policy wonk, who was reluctant to take the job because he liked being a committee chairman and valued his time with his family.”

Bob Livingston, who briefly led the House Republicans in 1998, said “House Republicans said they needed him and he didn’t want to let them down. And to get him, members were willing to agree to his conditions.”

Ryan became nationally known as Republican Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate in 2012. They lost to the ticket of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

Ryan is currently chair of the House committee that writes the tax laws for the United States. He wanted to keep that job. He has been working on legislation to make the U.S. tax code simpler.

So, when House leaders came to him and asked him to run for speaker, Representative Ryan said he needed time to think about it.

Ryan said he does not want to spend too many weekends away from his wife and three children. His children, two boys and a girl, are aged 10, 12, and 13.

Paul Ryan, like most members, now gets long weekends at home with family because the House generally works short weeks.

But the speaker is generally expected to travel on weekends to raise campaign funds. Outgoing Speaker John Boehner spent 200 days a year to raise funds for Republicans, aides said.

Paul Ryan’s agreement with leaders means others will fill in for him at many of those fund-raising events.

His desire to keep weekends with family drew praise, but some criticism, too.

Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg gave him the “Lean in Award” of the day.

“We need work to work for parents – and having leaders who weigh responsibilities as fathers as much as their responsibilities to their jobs shows all of us what is possible,” she wrote on Facebook.

But Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren tweeted that “millions of hard-working moms and dads want work/life balance, too,” just like Ryan. But Warren said they “can be fired just for asking for time off to care for a sick kid.”

Paul Ryan’s rise to the speaker’s position at the relatively young age of 45 will not be easy. The 247 Republicans in the House are divided.

Some want to fight President Obama, a Democrat, even harder than they have already in his seven years in office. But other Republicans say compromise is needed. If not, the federal government could shut down for the second time since 2013. Republicans got most of the blame in 2013.

Paul Ryan is set to become House leader just as several critical issues are before Congress: Congress will consider extending the debt limit in the next few weeks so the United States can pay its debts. And Congress and the president must agree on how much money to spend over the next 10 months or risk another government shutdown.

I’m Caty Weaver.

Bruce Alpert reported and wrote this story for VOA Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.


Words in This Story

tough adj. very difficult to do or deal with

wonkn. a person who knows a lot about the details of a particular field (such as politics) and often talks a lot about that subject

reluctantadj. not willing or eager to do something

fund n. an amount of money that is used for a special purpose

shutdownn. closure

Show comments