It was a scene worthy of description by a Shakespeare. Even through the medium of television the viewer could sense a spirit of joy and a genuine sense of hope that the nation’s two major political parties really could come together for the common good and discern the greatest good for the greatest number.
It was an all too rare moment in our nation’s capital. There in the well of the people’s house all 435 members of Congress were united in conveying heartfelt thanks to outgoing Speaker John Boehner for his distinquished service, as well as appreciation for the accession of Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan to the Speakership.
Even the most cynical within a beltway bulging with cynics and critics had to concede the slate had been swept clean, that a transformational new beginning might be underway. Congressman Ryan is the right person in the right place at the right time with the right message.
Ryan gets the fundamental desire echoing from the constituencies of all members: collaborative, cooperative government can occur when members recognize they are sent Washington, D.C. to solve problems. They are not, as Speaker Ryan noted, to be the problem.
For a full hour animosities were set aside, respect and camaraderie prevailed. The only other time in recent memory an approximation of this coming together occurred was when Spokane’s Tom Foley, the first Speaker ever from west of the 100th meridian, succeeded the ethically challenged and disgraced Speaker Jim Wright from Texas.
Ironically, on the same day former Republican Speaker Dennis Hastert was standing before a Federal Judge to be sentenced following his admission of guilt for accepting bribes in the millions of dollars. House Democrats, well aware of their own past disgraced Speaker, wisely refrained from making any partisan comments about the parallels.
The new Speaker quickly eschewed any Presidential aspirations, telling CNN that this would have been the time to run if he had a hankering to be president. In his acceptence remarks he tossed a couple of “political bones” to the Freedom Forum/Tea Party of which Idaho First District Congressman Raul Labrador is a prominent member.
Ryan said the prominence of the committee system would be restored, which means Leadership will not dictate when bills move. Additionally, backbenchers will be able to contribute especially if they have a particular expertise.
Ryan, like Boehner, is the quintessential American success story. He’s the first major political figure to have worked at a McDonald’s to help his widowed mother with expenses. He took the job when his father passed away when he was 16.
He worked his way through college, incurring debt from loans but also receiving Pell grants. He first came to D.C. as an intern in a Congressional office. Happily married, he is devoted to his wife and children, and only accepted the Speakership on condition he be able to continue his practice of flying home every weekend.
There’s irony in Ryan’s accession, especially for Congressman Labrador (Who voted for conservative colleague Rep. Daniel Webster of Florida in the Republican caucus; the next day he voted for Ryan in the House vote) and the Freedom Forum. Ryan becoming Speaker is a perfect example of the “Law of Unintended Consequences.” Labrador and his fellow travelers started over a year ago to undermine and drive out of office Speaker Boehner.
Little did they realize the outcome would be a no nonsense, practical, results-oriented Speaker who is not afraid of compromise. Indeed, he walked the talk 18 months earlier when negotiating a budget deal with Washington’s senior sernator, Patty Murray.
Nor could they have had any idea that Speaker Boehner would, in his words, “clean the barn” before leaving. This cleaning included an $80 billion increase in spending and a kicking the can of voting on increasing the debt ceiling down the road for almost two years.
So my friends, if you happen to see the First District congressman any time soon, be sure and thank him.