Something to Think About: Paul Ryan Has Our Attention
November 3, 2015
Despite the fact that we are still a year away from the 2016 presidential election, campaign reporting clogs news cycles. Every other article on the Politics page of CNN.com is either on a not-so-surprising new poll or on yet another fascinating comment from Donald Trump.
Yet, over the last few weeks, there has been some change in the news cycle.
People are talking about Paul Ryan. And he’s not even running for president.
Last week, Paul Ryan replaced John Boehner as Speaker of the House.
If this is news to you, do not be alarmed. I would guess that you are not alone.
Unless he is making some ridiculously partisan comment against the president, it is unlikely that the Speaker will be the topic of national conversation.
As a result, the office of the Speaker tends to be vague and, often times, people misunderstand it.
For me, while Boehner held the position, he mostly just served as a symbol of a dysfunctional Congress and as the person to get angry at when nothing got done.
But in reality, the Speaker of the House has an influential role in the daily happenings of the legislative process.
Here are some of the basics:
1. The Speaker calls the House to order and keeps decorum in the Chamber. In that, he may or may not be successful.
2. The Speaker appoints committees. Committees are a major part of the process through which a bill becomes a law and often determine the substance of a bill.
3. The Speaker recognizes the members of Congress that will speak.
4. The Speaker determines the legislative agenda.
Out of all of those, the last is probably the most important. When a bill is introduced to the floor of the House, it is because the Speaker has approved it.
And here is where you get partisan gridlock.
The Speaker always belongs to the majority party and consistently uses that position to their advantage.
Among Democrats, Boehner had the reputation of fueling partisanism in the House and preventing progress.
However, among his own Republicans, Boehner was perceived as being weak against President Obama. It was the constant pressure from the base of his party that led to his resignation.
Whether or not Paul Ryan will be any different is the question that politicians in Washington are asking themselves. And it is that question that has gotten him on the news.
Unlike Boehner, Ryan is a “big ideas” man. He is known for his bold budget and policy proposals and he doesn’t enjoy pandering to donors.
For a lot of Republicans, this man shows promise. Ryan means change, and change is something that they are in desperate need of.
At 45, Ryan is the youngest Speaker in about a century, and the buzz surrounding him has kept him in the eye of the media.
However, whether or not he will truly make a difference in the House remains to be seen.
And this time, people might actually be watching.