Paul Ryan Easily Re-elected House Speaker

© House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. holds the gavel after being re-elected to his leadership position. Image: Paul Ryan
Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan was easily re-elected Speaker of the House on Tuesday, earning the vote of all but one House Republican.

Ryan received 239 votes -- three more votes than he received in 2015 -- to remain the leader of Congressional Republicans. Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ken., was the lone vote against Ryan. He supported Florida Rep. Daniel Webster.

Ryan will lead a GOP majority with an ambitious agenda centered on repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, and cutting taxes and regulations for American businesses.

"We've got our work cut out for us. As your speaker, I intend to keep this place running at full speed," Ryan said after his election.

California Rep. Nancy Pelosi will also remain House minority leader, though four Democrats voted for other members. Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, who notably challenged Pelosi for the post in a Democratic caucus vote last year, earned two votes. Democratic Reps. John Lewis and Jim Cooper also received votes.

After the deeply divisive 2016 election, Ryan pledged to Democrats that he would ensure hearing them out.

"To the minority, I want to say this: We've never shied away from our disagreements, and I do not expect anyone to do so now," said Ryan. "But however bright of a contrast that we draw between us, it must never blind us to the common ground that we share."

Paul Ryan prevents Roger Marshall's son from dabbing during swearing-in

The teenage son of a Kansas congressman flummoxed the speaker of the US house of representatives by dabbing during a photo call at his swearing in.

Paul Ryan believed Cal Marshall, the 17-year-old son of Roger Marshall, was about to sneeze when he moved his face down to his forearm while he and his family posed for photographs at Tuesday’s swearing in.

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He was in fact dabbing: a viral dance move popularised by US athletes and rappers, and embraced by teenagers as an irreverent or celebratory gesture.

Video footage shows Cal Marshall determinedly doing the dab despite Ryan’s attempts to dissuade him.

“You all right?” he asks of the teenager.

“I’m all right,” Marshall replies into the crook of his elbow, mid-dab.

“Do you want – can you put your hand down?” persists Ryan.

When Marshall eventually concedes, Ryan asks: “Were you going to sneeze? Is that it?”

“Yeah,” says Marshall.

“He’s sneezing!” his father tells the photographers.

Congressman Roger Marshall later told Ryan over Twitter that Cal was grounded.

But Ryan seemed more bemused than offended.

“Just finished swearing-in photos,” he later tweeted. “Nearly 300 members. Countless cute kids.

“Still don’t get what dabbing is, though.”

Ryan’s misapprehension was understandable, given the dab does resemble a polite attempt to muffle a loud sneeze.

In December, a viral image of unknown origin showed the dab appropriated as a public health message not to spread germs: the acronym “Destroy All Bacteria”.

The move is believed to have originated in the hip-hop scene of Atlanta, Georgia, as long ago as 2013, but reached a tipping point in late 2015 after featuring in a number of viral videos online.

After being popularised as a celebratory gesture by US sports players, most notably the Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, and took on a new life on social media.

Hillary Clinton did the dab on Ellen in January 2016, around the same time Jesse Lingard brought the dab to Britain when he marked his goal in Manchester United’s 3-3 draw against Newcastle.

In the chronology of viral dance moves, it succeeded the Whip and the Nae Nae (both demonstrated by Clinton on Ellen) and was followed by Juju on that Beat.

Ethics flap reveals flaws in Paul Ryan’s approach to using power

Maybe Republicans in Congress will listen to Paul Ryan in the future.

That’s the most optimistic way of looking at Tuesday’s ethics office mess. It’s the only potential silver lining on a day when the legislative branch — as an institution — started a new and very important year on a bad foot.

Congress and its Republican leaders will need every ounce of political capital they have in the coming months and years during a Trump presidency. President-elect Donald Trump doesn’t acknowledge constitutional restraints on the presidency when discussing his broad agenda. House Speaker Ryan held off on endorsing him for this very reason.

And Ryan, for all his effort during the late stages of the presidential campaign to heal his relationship with Trump, knows it’s quite possible Congress will have to act as a check on Trump if the next president tries to overextend the powers of the executive branch.

But what Trump understands better than many traditional politicians is that public perception creates political power. Congress is already regarded with contempt by most Americans: Polls show that only one out of every five Americans approves of the legislative body. And Trump won the presidency by promising to wring establishment Washington by the neck.

So when House Republicans voted Monday night to make changes to an independent ethics committee that was interpreted as gutting its power, they handed Trump a club with which to beat them over the head. Two House leadership sources told Yahoo News that Ryan opposed the changes.

Trump, never one to let a public outcry go unharnessed, promptly tweeted his disapproval of the move — a calculated criticism of the GOP’s timing more than the actual substance — and by Tuesday at lunchtime, the House Republicans had scrapped their plan.

For Congress, it was an unfortunate way to start the year. They rolled over at the first sign of displeasure from the president-elect, even if outraged phone calls to their offices were as much a motivator as anything else.

But for Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican now in his second year as speaker, the red flags were more substantial. He took a hit to his own public perception, and weaknesses in his leadership style were exposed.

He opposed the vote but was unable to persuade them not to do it. Then on Tuesday morning, Ryan put out a statement defending what Republicans had voted on, trying to tamp down the idea that the GOP had gutted or destroyed the ethics office or its independence.

Hours later, he held a private meeting with other leaders and with members including Rep. Bob Goodlatte, the Virginia Republican who had led the effort to change the Office of Congressional Ethics, and they agreed to withdraw the proposal from a vote in the full House.

Ryan looked bad at every stage. He looked weak for not stopping his members from supporting it. His integrity will take a hit with those who perceive him as trying to help Congress evade ethics oversight. And finally, Trump’s critics will view House Republicans as the president-elect’s errand boys for backing down so quickly.

Perhaps most significant, this episode exposed a vulnerability in Ryan’s leadership style. Ryan can’t stomach the idea of being a strong-arm leader, like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, or the two Democrats who have led their parties in the Senate and House for the past several years: retiring Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California.

It’s partly generational and partly a personality thing. Ryan prefers to make his case and to remain on good terms with all members of his Republican conference. He doesn’t want to be the bad guy. His own advisers and allies admit as much.

It may be that episodes like the ethics office flap will work out in the long run. Perhaps Goodlatte and others have learned a lesson, that they should heed the warnings of Ryan and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy in the future. Maybe Ryan’s nice guy approach will work.

But more likely, it won’t. Ryan tried to respect and protect his own members at every turn. He deferred to their wishes for autonomy in voting for the changes. He tried to help them by explaining the move. And he was trying to minimize damage to Congress by getting Goodlatte to back off pushing for the measure.

Ryan is leery of raw power, of being rough with allies and fellow party members, of forcing them to get in line. It’s a sentiment shared by other younger members of Congress, including younger senators.

But if Ryan wants the House to solve problems through legislation and to present a unified, co-equal branch of government that can stand up to the executive branch, he may need to get comfortable with being feared rather than loved. Maybe telling a young man to stop dabbing in a photo Tuesday afternoon was a good start.

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