US House Republicans keep Paul Ryan as Speaker

Ryan at a press conference at the US Capitol on Nov 15, 2016 in Washington, DC.
Ryan at a press conference at the US Capitol on Nov 15, 2016 in Washington, DC.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Republican members of the US House of Representatives on Tuesday (Nov 15) unanimously chose Paul Ryan to keep his job as Speaker, following the party’s victory at the polls last week, the House GOP conference announced.

“It is a tremendous honour to be nominated by my colleagues to serve as Speaker of the House. Now it’s time to go big,” Ryan, a 46-year-old lawmaker from Wisconsin, tweeted after the closed-doors vote at the Capitol.

Democrats and Republicans will formally vote to elect the chamber’s speaker after newly-elected lawmakers take up their seats on Jan 3.

Given that the Republicans maintain their majority in the House, Ryan’s re-election as speaker is essentially a foregone conclusion – unless another Republican decides to mount a surprise challenge between now and then.

On the Democratic side, internal divisions have delayed the election of a party leader in the House until Nov 30.

The role is currently held by Nancy Pelosi, 76, but she may face a challenge from the party’s young guard, in the person of 43-year-old Ohio lawmaker Tim Ryan.

The Republican majority in both the House and Senate is expected to clear the way for President-elect Donald Trump to roll out much of his conservative agenda unfettered.

In a sign that the party leadership’s resistance to the maverick billionaire has all but disappeared, House Republicans assembling for the internal vote were each given one of Trump’s trademark red “Make America Great Again” baseball caps.

Ryan himself – who kept his distance and on several occasions criticized Trump during the White House campaign – has swung firmly behind the 45th US president, who will take office on Jan 20.

“Seventy per cent of the people in this nation think America is going down the wrong path,” Ryan told a news conference on Tuesday morning.

“They now just said, get on a better way, a better path. That’s our job. Not to look backwards but to look forward.”

Trump and the Republicans appear to be in broad agreement on a roadmap that includes replacing President Barack Obama’s trademark health care law, building a wall – or fence – on the Mexican border, and slashing taxes.

“We’re on the same page with our president-elect,” Ryan said. “I talked with Donald Trump virtually every single day.”

Definitive results from last Tuesday’s election have yet to come in, but Republicans are assured of holding at least 239 seats in the House of Representatives, against 193 for Democrats, and at least 51 of 100 seats in the Senate.