Republicans renominate Speaker in show of unity

Mr Ryan (third from left) speaking to the media in Washington, DC after the House Republican leadership elections on Tuesday, with other House Republicans looking on. Despite past feuding with Mr Trump, Mr Ryan said the "new unified Republican govern
Mr Ryan (third from left) speaking to the media in Washington, DC after the House Republican leadership elections on Tuesday, with other House Republicans looking on. Despite past feuding with Mr Trump, Mr Ryan said the "new unified Republican government" will be "focused on turning President-elect Trump's victory into real progress for the American people".PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Projecting a show of unity, House Republicans have renominated Mr Paul Ryan as Speaker, quieting rumours of cracks in the party in the wake of past feuding between Mr Ryan and President-elect Donald Trump.

But Mr Ryan, 46, will have more than his contentious relationship with Mr Trump to navigate; he may also find himself locking horns with his long-time critic Stephen Bannon, whom Mr Trump has chosen as his chief strategist.

And there remains no guarantee of unanimous party support in the House for Mr Trump's appointments and legislative proposals.

"Welcome to the dawn of a new unified Republican government," said Mr Ryan on Tuesday after his renomination. "This will be a government focused on turning President-elect Trump's victory into real progress for the American people."

He was earlier tested when pressed by reporters over Mr Trump's controversial choice of the notoriously right-wing Mr Bannon as his senior counsellor.

Mr Bannon, who once ran the "alternative right" website Breitbart News, had attacked Mr Ryan and his family, and promoted a rival, Mr Paul Nehlen.

Mr Bannon also mocked Mr Ryan on his radio show for "rubbing his social-justice Catholicism in my nose every second".

But Mr Ryan had to defend Mr Trump's decision on Tuesday, saying Mr Bannon had "helped him win an incredible victory and an incredible campaign".

"The president is going to be judged on the results of this administration," said Mr Ryan. "And that's why we're very eager to get up and running, to help him with his transition, to help him make progress on the mandate that has been given to us from the American people."

A career politician who made a name for himself in crafting policy, Mr Ryan had called Mr Trump's accusation of bias by an ethnic Mexican judge in a Trump University lawsuit "the textbook definition of a racist comment".

Mr Trump retaliated by tweeting that Mr Ryan was a "weak and ineffective leader".

But, playing a skilful political game, Mr Ryan never quite repudiated Mr Trump and, in the hours after the polls closed on Nov 8, the two spoke twice on the phone.

Last week, they met. Analysts say they need each other if Mr Trump and the party are to succeed.

There remain differences between the two on policies such as free trade and taxes. Mr Trump's appointments must also be confirmed by the House.

But Mr Ryan's friendship with new chief of staff Reince Priebus and Vice-President-elect Mike Pence will mean a direct line of communication to Mr Trump - a change from the gridlock of the Barack Obama administration when Republicans in control of the House were able to block many of the President's initiatives.

That was one reason for Mr Obama's frequent use of executive decision-making powers.

Nirmal Ghosh

WATCH ONLINE

Mr Ryan says the Republican Party is working "hand in glove" with Mr Trump. http://str.sg/4Mo8

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 17, 2016, with the headline 'Republicans renominate Speaker in show of unity'. Print Edition | Subscribe