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Paul Ryan

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Paul Ryan
A portrait shot of Paul Ryan, looking straight ahead. He has short brown hair, and is wearing a dark navy blazer with a red and blue striped tie over a light blue collared shirt. In the background is the American flag.
54th Speaker of the United States
House of Representatives
Assumed office
October 29, 2015
President Barack Obama
Preceded by John Boehner
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Wisconsin's 1st district
Assumed office
January 3, 1999
Preceded by Mark Neumann
Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee
In office
January 3, 2015 – October 29, 2015
Preceded by Dave Camp
Succeeded by Sam Johnson (Acting)
Chairman of the House Budget Committee
In office
January 3, 2011 – January 3, 2015
Preceded by John Spratt
Succeeded by Tom Price
Personal details
Born Paul Davis Ryan
(1970-01-29) January 29, 1970 (age 45)
Janesville, Wisconsin, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Janna Little
Children 3
Alma mater Miami University (Ohio)
Religion Catholicism
House website
Paul Ryan on Twitter
Paul Ryan official portrait.jpg This article is part of a series about
Paul D. Ryan

Speaker of the House

Seal of the Speaker of the US House of Representatives.svg

Paul Davis Ryan (born January 29, 1970) is the 54th and current Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Ryan is a member of the Republican Party who has served as the U.S. Representative for Wisconsin's 1st congressional district since 1999 and as House Ways and Means Committee Chairman since January 2015. Ryan previously served as Chairman of the House Budget Committee from 2011 to 2015. He was the Republican Party nominee for Vice President of the United States, running alongside Governor Mitt Romney in the 2012 election.[1][2] Ryan, together with Democratic Senator Patty Murray, negotiated the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013.[3][4][5]

On October 29, 2015, Ryan was elected to replace John Boehner as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, and named John David Hoppe as his Chief of Staff.[6][7] He is the first person from Wisconsin to hold this position.[8]

Early life and education

Ryan was born in Janesville, Wisconsin, the youngest of four children of Elizabeth A. "Betty" (née Hutter) and Paul Murray Ryan, a lawyer.[9][10][11] A fifth-generation Wisconsinite, his father was of Irish ancestry and his mother is of German and English ancestry.[12] One of Ryan's paternal ancestors settled in Wisconsin prior to the Civil War.[13] His great-grandfather, Patrick William Ryan (1858–1917), founded an earthmoving company in 1884, which later became P. W. Ryan and Sons and is now known as Ryan Incorporated Central.[14][15] Ryan's grandfather, Stanley M. Ryan, was appointed U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin.[16][17]

Ryan attended St. Mary's Catholic School in Janesville, where he played on the seventh-grade basketball team.[18] He attended Joseph A. Craig High School in Janesville, where he was elected president of his junior class, and thus became prom king.[19] As class president Ryan was a representative of the student body on the school board.[20] Following his second year, Ryan took a job working the grill at McDonald's.[20] He was on his high school's ski, track and varsity soccer teams and played basketball in a Catholic recreational league.[21][22][23] He also participated in several academic and social clubs including the Model United Nations.[20][21] Ryan and his family often went on hiking and skiing trips to the Colorado Rocky Mountains.[10][17]

When he was 16, Ryan found his 55-year-old father lying dead in bed of a heart attack.[17][20] Following the death of his father, Ryan's grandmother moved in with the family, and because she had Alzheimer's, Ryan helped care for her while his mother commuted to college in Madison, Wisconsin.[20] After his father's death, Ryan received Social Security survivors benefits until his 18th birthday, which were saved for his college education.[24][25][26]

Ryan has a bachelor's degree in economics and political science from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio,[27] where he became interested in the writings of Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, and Milton Friedman.[20] He often visited the office of libertarian professor Richard Hart to discuss the theories of these economists and of Ayn Rand.[20][28] Hart introduced Ryan to National Review,[20] and with Hart's recommendation Ryan began an internship in the D.C. office of Wisconsin Senator Bob Kasten where he worked with Kasten's foreign affairs adviser.[20][29] Ryan also attended the Washington Semester program at American University.[30] Ryan worked summers as a salesman for Oscar Mayer and once got to drive the Wienermobile.[17][28][31] During college, Ryan was a member of the College Republicans,[32] and volunteered for the congressional campaign of John Boehner.[28] He was a member of the Delta Tau Delta social fraternity.[33] Ryan received a Bachelor of Arts in 1992 with a double major in economics and political science.[27]

Political philosophy

At a 2005 Washington, D.C. gathering celebrating the 100th anniversary of Ayn Rand's birth,[34][35] Ryan credited Rand as inspiring him to get involved in public service.[36] In a speech that same year at the Atlas Society, he said he grew up reading Rand, and that her books taught him about his value system and beliefs.[37][38] Ryan required staffers and interns in his congressional office to read Rand[38] and gave copies of her novel Atlas Shrugged as gifts to his staff for Christmas.[39][40] In his Atlas Society speech, he also described Social Security as a "socialist-based system".[41]

In 2009, Ryan said, "What's unique about what's happening today in government, in the world, in America, is that it's as if we're living in an Ayn Rand novel right now. I think Ayn Rand did the best job of anybody to build a moral case of capitalism, and that morality of capitalism is under assault."[39]

In April 2012, after receiving criticism from Georgetown University faculty members on his budget plan, Ryan rejected Rand's philosophy as an atheistic one, saying it "reduces human interactions down to mere contracts".[42] He also called the reports of his adherence to Rand's views an "urban legend" and stated that he was deeply influenced by his Roman Catholic faith and by Thomas Aquinas.[43] Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute, maintains that Ryan is not a Rand disciple, and that some of his proposals do not follow Rand's philosophy of limited government; Brook refers to Ryan as a "fiscal moderate".[44]

In August 2012, after Romney chose him as his running mate, the Associated Press published a story saying that while the Tea Party movement had wanted a nominee other than Romney, it had gotten "one of its ideological heroes" in the Vice Presidential slot. According to the article, Ryan supports the Tea Party's belief in "individual rights, distrust of big government and an allegorical embrace of the Founding Fathers".[45]

Early career

Betty Ryan reportedly urged her son to accept a congressional position as a legislative aide in Senator Kasten's office, which he did after graduating in 1992.[29][46][47] In his early years working on Capitol Hill, Ryan supplemented his income by working as a waiter, as a fitness trainer, and at other jobs.[17][31]

A few months after Kasten lost to Democrat Russ Feingold in the November 1992 election, Ryan became a speechwriter for Empower America (now FreedomWorks), a conservative advocacy group founded by Jack Kemp, Jeane Kirkpatrick, and William Bennett.[17][48][49] Ryan later worked as a speechwriter for Kemp,[50] the Republican vice presidential candidate in the 1996 United States presidential election. Kemp became Ryan's mentor, and Ryan has said he had a "huge influence".[51] In 1995, Ryan became the legislative director for then-U.S. Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas. In 1997 he returned to Wisconsin, where he worked for a year as a marketing consultant for the construction company Ryan Incorporated Central, owned by his relatives.[20][48][52]

U.S. House of Representatives


Ryan was first elected to the House in 1998, winning the 1st District seat of Mark Neumann, a two-term incumbent who had vacated his seat to make an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate. Ryan won the Republican primary over 29-year-old pianist Michael J. Logan of Twin Lakes,[53] and the general election against Democrat Lydia Spottswood.[54] This made him the second-youngest member of the House.[20]

Reelected eight times, Ryan has never received less than 55 percent of the vote. He defeated Democratic challenger Jeffrey C. Thomas in the 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2006 elections.[55] (In 2002, Ryan also faced Libertarian candidate George Meyers.) In 2008, Ryan defeated Democrat Marge Krupp in the 2008 election.[55] In the 2010 general election, he defeated Democrat John Heckenlively and Libertarian Joseph Kexel.

Ryan faced Democratic nominee Rob Zerban in the 2012 House election. As of July 25, 2012, Ryan had over $5.4 million in his congressional campaign account, more than any other House member.[56][57] Finance, insurance and real estate was the sector that contributed most to his campaign.[58] Under Wisconsin election law, Ryan was allowed to run concurrently for vice president and for Congress[59] and was not allowed to remove his name from the Congressional ballot after being nominated for the vice presidency.[60] Ryan was reelected in 2012 with 55% of his district's vote[61] and 44% of the vote in his hometown, Janesville.[62]

Zerban again challenged Ryan in the 2014 House election.[63] In this election, Ryan won with 63% of his district's vote.[64]


Ryan became the ranking Republican member of the House Budget Committee in 2007,[65] then chairman in 2011 after Republicans took control of the House. That same year he was selected to deliver the Republican response to the State of the Union address.[66]

Official U.S. Congress portrait of Ryan in 2011

During his 13 years in the House, Ryan has sponsored more than 70 bills or amendments,[67] of which two were enacted into law.[68] One, passed in July 2000, renamed a post office in Ryan's district; the other, passed in December 2008, lowered the excise tax on arrow shafts.[69][70] Ryan has also co-sponsored 975 bills,[68] of which 176 have passed.[71] 22 percent of these bills were originally sponsored by Democrats.[68]

In 2010, Ryan was a member of the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (Bowles-Simpson Commission), which was tasked with developing a plan to reduce the federal deficit. He voted against the final report of the commission.[72]

In 2012, Ryan accused the nation's top military leaders of using "smoke and mirrors" to remain under budget limits passed by Congress.[73][74] Ryan later said that he misspoke on the issue and called General Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to apologize for his comments.[75]

As of mid-2012, Ryan had been on seven trips abroad as part of a congressional delegation.[76]

Committee assignments

As Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ryan holds no chairmanship of any committee nor is he a member of any committee or subcommittee. Prior to his election, Ryan held the following assignments:

Caucus memberships

Constituent services

In fiscal year 2008, Ryan garnered $5.4 million in congressional earmarks for his constituency, including $3.28 million for bus service in Wisconsin, $1.38 million for the Ice Age Trail, and $735,000 for the Janesville transit system.[78] In 2009, he successfully advocated with the Department of Energy for stimulus funds for energy initiatives in his district.[78] Other home district projects he has supported include a runway extension at the Rock County Airport, an environmental study of the Kenosha Harbor, firefighting equipment for Janesville, road projects in Wisconsin, and commuter rail and streetcar projects in Kenosha.[79] In 2008, Ryan pledged to stop seeking earmarks.[79] Prior to that he had sought earmarks less often than other representatives.[79] Taxpayers for Common Sense records show no earmarks supported by Ryan for fiscal years 2009 and 2010.[78] In 2012 Ryan supported a request for $3.8 million from the Department of Transportation for a new transit center in Janesville,[79] which city officials received in July.[80]

Ryan was an active member of a task force established by Wisconsin governor Jim Doyle that tried unsuccessfully to persuade GM to keep its assembly plant in Janesville open.[81] He made personal contact with GM executives to try to convince them to save or retool the plant, offering GM hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer-funded incentives.[81]

Following the closing of factories in Janesville and Kenosha, constituents expressed dissatisfaction with his votes and support.[82] During the 2011 Congressional summer break, Ryan held town hall meetings by telephone with constituents, but no free, in-person listening sessions. The only public meetings Ryan attended in his district required an admission fee of at least $15.[83][84] In August 2011, constituents in Kenosha and Racine protested when Ryan would not meet with them about economic and employment issues, after weeks of emailed requests from them.[82][83][85] Ryan's Kenosha office locked its doors and filed a complaint with the police, who told the protesters that they were not allowed in Ryan's office.[82][83][85] Ryan maintains a mobile office to serve constituents in outlying areas.[86]

2012 vice presidential campaign

Mitt Romney with Paul Ryan after introducing him as his running mate, for the 2012 presidential election, in Norfolk, Virginia, on August 11, 2012

Dan Balz of The Washington Post wrote that Ryan was promoted as a candidate for Vice President "by major elements of the conservative opinion makers, including The Wall Street Journal editorial page, the Weekly Standard and the editor of National Review".[87]

On August 11, 2012, the Romney campaign officially announced Ryan as its choice for Vice President through its "Mitt's VP" mobile app[88] as well as by the social networking service Twitter,[89] about 90 minutes before Romney's in-person introduction.[citation needed] Before the official announcement in Norfolk, Virginia, it was reported that Romney made his decision, and offered the position to Ryan on August 1, 2012,[90] the day after returning from a foreign policy trip through the United Kingdom, Poland and Israel.[91] On August 11, 2012, Ryan formally accepted Romney's invitation to join his campaign as his running mate, in front of the USS Wisconsin in Norfolk.[92] Ryan is the major parties' first-ever vice-presidential candidate from Wisconsin.[93]

According to a statistical-historical analysis conducted by Nate Silver, "Ryan is the most conservative Republican member of Congress to be picked for the vice-presidential slot since at least 1900" and "is also more conservative than any Democratic nominee [for vice president who previously served in the Congress] was liberal, meaning that he is the furthest from the center" of any vice presidential candidate chosen from Congress since the turn of the 20th century.[94] This analysis, using the DW-NOMINATE statistical system,[94] has been described as "one of the more statistically rigorous approaches to Ryan's congressional voting record".[95] Political scientist Eric Schickler commented that while Ryan "may well be the most conservative vice presidential nominee in decades," the NOMINATE methodology "is not suited to making claims about the relative liberalism or conservatism of politicians" over a long time span.[95] A USA Today/Gallup poll found that 39% thought Ryan was an "excellent" or "pretty good" vice presidential choice, compared to 42% who felt he was a "fair" or "poor" choice.[96]

Ryan formally accepted his nomination at the 2012 Republican National Convention on August 29, 2012.[97] In his acceptance speech, he promoted Mitt Romney as the presidential candidate,[98] supported repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA),[98] said that he and Romney had a plan to generate 12 million new jobs over the ensuing four years,[98] and promoted founding principles as a solution: "We will not duck the tough issues—we will lead. We will not spend four years blaming others—we will take responsibility. We will not try to replace our founding principles, we will reapply our founding principles."[98]

The speech was well received by the convention audience and praised for being well-delivered.[99][100] Some fact-checkers noted that there were important factual omissions and that he presented details out of context.[101][102][103][104] Conservative media (including Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post,[105] the Investor's Business Daily,[106] and Fox News[107]) disputed some of the fact-checkers' findings. rated 33 of Ryan's statements which it suspected of being false or misleading as True: 10.5%, Mostly True: 18%, Half True: 21%, Mostly False: 36%, False: 9%, and Pants on Fire: 6%.[108] On October 11, 2012, Ryan debated his Democratic counterpart, incumbent Vice President Joe Biden, in the only vice presidential debate of the 2012 election cycle.[109][110]

Romney and Ryan lost the 2012 presidential election, but Ryan retained his seat in the House of Representatives.[111][112] Ryan attended the second inauguration of Barack Obama out of what he said was "obligation",[113][114][115] where he was booed by a group led by a lawyer with the Voting Section of the Department of Justice.[116][117][118]

Speaker of the House

Speaker Ryan (left) shakes hands as he ascends to office following the retirement of Speaker John Boehner (right).

On October 8, a push by congressional Republicans to recruit Ryan to run to succeed John Boehner as Speaker of the House was initiated.[119] Boehner had recently announced his resignation and stated his support for Kevin McCarthy to be his replacement, which received wide support among Republicans, including Ryan, who was set to officially nominate him.[120] McCarthy withdrew his name from consideration on October 8, leading to the interest in Ryan, including a plea from Boehner who reportedly told Ryan that he is the only person who can unite the House GOP at a time of turmoil.[119] Ryan released a statement that said, "While I am grateful for the encouragement I've received, I will not be a candidate."[121] But on October 9, close aides of Ryan confirmed that Ryan had reconsidered, and was seeking the possibility of a run.[122][123] Ryan confirmed on October 22 that he would seek the speakership after receiving the endorsements of two factions of House Republicans, including the conservative Freedom Caucus.[124][125] Ryan upon confirming his bid for speakership stated, "I never thought I'd be speaker. But I pledged to you that if I could be a unifying figure, then I would serve -- I would go all in. After talking with so many of you, and hearing your words of encouragement, I believe we are ready to move forward as one, united team. And I am ready and eager to be our speaker."[126] On October 29, Ryan was elected Speaker with 236 votes.[127] He is the youngest Speaker since James G. Blaine in 1875.[128]

Political positions

Personal life

Ryan with his wife and family on the Speaker's balcony at the U.S. Capitol, following his election in October 2015.

Ryan married Janna Little, a tax attorney,[24] in 2000.[129] Little, a native of Oklahoma, is a graduate of Wellesley College, and George Washington University Law School.[24] Her cousin is former Democratic Representative Dan Boren, also of Oklahoma.[130] The Ryans live in the Courthouse Hill Historic District of Janesville, Wisconsin.[21] They have three children: Liza, Charles, and Sam.[131] A Catholic, Ryan is a member of St. John Vianney Catholic Church in Janesville, and was an altar boy.[132][133]

Because of a family history of fatal heart attacks before age 60, Ryan pursues an intense cross-training fitness program called P90X.[134] He is "fairly careful" about what he eats[17] and makes his own bratwurst and Polish sausage.[11]

In a radio interview Ryan said that he had run a marathon in under three hours;[135] he later stated that he forgot his actual time and was just trying to state what he thought was a normal time.[136] His one official marathon time is recorded as slightly over four hours.[137][138]

Ryan is a fisherman and bowhunter, and a member of the Janesville Bowmen archery association.[24] He is a fan of the Green Bay Packers.[139] His musical preferences include Beethoven, Rage Against the Machine, and Led Zeppelin, and he reportedly will whisk past reporters, ignoring them, while listening to this music on his iPod.[140][141]

Awards and honors

Electoral history

Year Office District Democratic Republican Other
1998 U.S. House of Representatives Wisconsin 1st District Lydia Spottswood 43% Paul Ryan 57%
2000 U.S. House of Representatives Wisconsin 1st District Jeffrey Thomas 33% Paul Ryan 67%
2002 U.S. House of Representatives Wisconsin 1st District Jeffrey Thomas 31% Paul Ryan 67% George Meyers (L) 2%
2004 U.S. House of Representatives Wisconsin 1st District Jeffrey Thomas 33% Paul Ryan 65%
2006 U.S. House of Representatives Wisconsin 1st District Jeffrey Thomas 37% Paul Ryan 63%
2008 U.S. House of Representatives Wisconsin 1st District Marge Krupp 35% Paul Ryan 64% Joseph Kexel (L) 1%
2010 U.S. House of Representatives Wisconsin 1st District John Heckenlively 30% Paul Ryan 68% Joseph Kexel (L) 2%
2012 U.S. House of Representatives Wisconsin 1st District Rob Zerban 43% Paul Ryan 55% Keith Deschler (L) 2%
2012 Vice President of the United States United States of America Joe Biden 51% Paul Ryan 47% James P. Gray (L) 1%
2014 U.S. House of Representatives Wisconsin 1st District Rob Zerban 37% Paul Ryan 63%
2015 Speaker U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi 42% Paul Ryan 54% Daniel Webster (R) 2%


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Further reading

Works about Ryan

Works by Ryan

External links