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What we've learned about Paul Ryan

<p>Paul Ryan has been speaker of the House for just three weeks. It’s hardly enough time to make sweeping judgments about whether the Wisconsin Republican’s inclusive, bottom-up decision-making process is sustainable in the long term.</p><p>But still, over this period, Ryan has been busy. Very busy. He’s deftly navigated a Syrian refugee crisis that might’ve crippled former Speaker John Boehner. He reformed an internal power center within the House Republican Conference. He’s reopened lines of constant communication with President Barack Obama. And he seems to be playing on an endless loop on cable television. </p><p>Official Washington has gotten to know a new side of Ryan. And the 45-year old is sending strong signals about how he’ll run the Capitol, how he’ll wield power and how he’ll interact with this White House for the next 13 months — and beyond.</p><p>It’s an evolution — not a revolution. Ryan is looking to build on what he thought worked for Boehner and the House GOP leadership, without tearing down the structure and starting over. To take it a little farther, he’s trying to repair a car while sitting at the steering wheel, and everyone else is in the back seat yelling at him.</p><p>Still, Ryan has also shown a deft touch in dealing with the oversized egos that come with his new gig. Other party leaders, committee chairman and veteran lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have fallen for the Ryan charm. Even the Freedom Caucus is gushing about him. So far, Ryan is working.</p><p>With that in mind, here’s what we’ve learned about Ryan so far. </p><p><b>Ryan will go big in 2016</b></p><br><p>Ryan believes that next year — an election year — should be heavy on legislating. The speaker said he wants to set the House Republican conference up as a counterpoint to the Democrats. He doesn’t pay much mind to what candidates are saying on the campaign trail — he can hardly keep track. In fact, during a small roundtable with reporters in his Capitol office Thursday, the Wisconsin Republican said he hadn’t given his role in the election — or that of the House GOP majority — a lot of thought. </p><p>“I think it’s making Congress work, getting this place functioning and being the party of ideas,” Ryan said when asked what the House GOP’s role is next year. “That’s when we have to go from being just an opposition party to being an alternative party. So by then we have to be kicking in on offense on ideas, and being the alternative party.&quot;</p><p>Asked if he had any concern about being too bold in 2016, Ryan said, “I don’t have that fear, I never have.” Ryan continued: “We should run in 2016 on who we are, what we believe, what we will do if elected so that if we are given the honor of winning the election by the people of this country, then we have an obligation to do that. And we will have an honest election.” When quizzed whether Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would agree with that view, Ryan smiled and said, “he will.&quot;</p><p><b>Ryan is going to empower Kevin McCarthy</b></p><p>McCarthy couldn’t have looked weaker than when he bowed out of the race for House speaker in October. </p><p>But Ryan has orchestrated a resurgence, of sorts, for McCarthy. Ryan sets the tone for how the House Republican Conference should work, but McCarthy helps facilitate that vision. For example, McCarthy ran the &quot;blocking and tackling&quot; during the highway bill, working to sift through amendments and ensure a relatively smooth floor process. </p><p>And it was McCarthy who convened GOP committee chairmen after the attack in Paris and identified Rep. Richard Hudson’s (R-N.C.) bill as a good example of what Congress’ response should look like. It was McCarthy who shut down a push from Homeland Security Chairman Mike McCaul (R-Texas), among others, to include Christianity as the leading “preference” for admitting refugees in the legislation the House passed Friday. </p><p>It’s that kind of in-the-trenches work that shows why Ryan needs McCarthy. McCarthy understands each member’s wants, desires and quirks — especially on the political side. And Ryan trusts McCarthy, which isn’t always easy, even for politicians in the same party. The thorny relationship between Boehner and former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) is a perfect example of how two leaders can clash.</p><p><b>Ryan isn’t afraid to stand up to the right wing — inside and outside the Capitol.</b></p><p>There are numerous signs that Ryan is willing to stand up to the right wing. The religious preference example is one such episode. To the chagrin of some on the right, Ryan said repeatedly<b> </b>that it was inappropriate to consider religion before any other factor when screening refugees seeking entry into the United States. Ryan said Congress will focus on visa waivers and &quot;homegrown jihadists&quot; next.</p><p>&quot;We shouldn’t spend all of our concerns and time about refugees, there are bigger issues to deal with here,&quot; Ryan said.</p><p><b>Ryan is keeping his word about changing how the House works.</b></p><p>Ryan promised an open process, and he has mostly adhered to it. He allowed dozens of amendments on the highway bill, and supported a process whereby members of the House Republican Conference can quiz Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) about the substance of spending bills.</p><br><p>Ryan promised to rework the powerful Steering Committee, which doles out committee assignment — and he did, booting chairmen off the panel and giving rank-and-file members more say. </p><p><b>But, his so-called “firm rules” are actually quite malleable.</b></p><p>When disaster strikes — as it did last week in Paris — Ryan isn’t afraid to move fast, bypass committees and bring a bill to the floor quickly. </p><p>Here’s what Ryan said about bringing the refugee bill to the floor under a closed rule with limited committee oversight: “If we had a free-for-all on the floor who knows what the outcome would be, and I think the country is very worried, and the country wants to see us doing something to help secure the country and I didn’t want to jeopardize that,” Ryan said. “This is definitely outside of the realm of regular order. Good grief, we didn’t even run through committee…[The Paris attack] was Friday. We set up a task force on Saturday. We got the committees starting to meet over the weekend. We came together on Monday, and on Tuesday, because we have a 72-hour rule we care about, we posted the bill Tuesday night so we can have it on the floor.”</p><p><b>Ryan likes being on TV — and other Republicans like to see him doing it</b></p><p>During Ryan’s brief run for the speakership, he said he’d be a constant presence on television — and he has been. Since winning, he’s done nine television interviews: ABC’s “This Week,” NBC’s “Meet the Press,” CNN’s “State of the Union,” CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Fox News’s “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren,” Bloomberg’s “With All Due Respect,” CBS’s “60 Minutes,” and two segments on Fox News’s “Hannity.” He appeared on Hugh Hewitt and Bill Bennett’s radio shows, and did spots on four local radio stations. Ryan said members like that he’s communicating the party’s message.</p><p><b>But he’s still getting his sea legs </b></p><p>Ryan said he’s half German, which makes him “very much a routine person.” And he still hasn’t settled into a routine in his new position.</p><p>“I enjoy it,” Ryan said of being speaker. “I never thought I would. That’s why I never wanted the job. But I do enjoy it. It’s an absolute honor to have this job. And I think one of the reasons is I decided to do it differently. I had to redesign this job to fit my own style, and I just have always been a House guy. Passed up governor races and Senate races. I really like the House. We play rugby, they play golf over [in the Senate]. I like the team sport of the House. I think it’s grassroots, it’s team, it’s close to the people.”</p><p>Still, in a further sign that his regime is moving on from the Boehner era, Ryan did note that the Capitol cleaning crews have mostly gotten rid of the smell of smoke from the speaker’s suite. </p><br>

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