Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Politics & Government

Former Wisconsin Lawmakers Say Speaker Paul Ryan Faces Tough Road

Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Chairman of the House Republican Conference Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) after House Republicans nominated him to be the next Speaker of the House.

Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan is now the third most powerful man in Washington politics after a vote by House of Representative members on Thursday. 

Longtime Wisconsin lawmakers, Democrat David Obey and Republican Tom Petri, say Ryan faces a tough road ahead. Milwaukee was just one stop on Obey and Petri’s Civic Participation Series tour, where they touch on how to best fix Washington.

When GOP Congressman and Speaker of the House John Boehner in late September announced his resignation, his colleagues were stunned. Conservatives in Washington were unhappy that Boehner was willing to negotiate with lawmakers on the other side of the aisle, and some were threatening to pull their support. Democrat David Obey represented Wisconsin in Congress from 1969 until 2011. Obey says Boehner was forced out by a new breed of politicians.

“He was doing his duty, which is to try to get things done by working with people throughout the institution. He had about 40 hard heads who are angry that he tried to workout compromises on anything. You’ve got another 80 people in the Republican caucus who are terrified that if they don’t vote with those 40 that they’re going to get stuck with a primary from the right,” Obey says.

As a condition to agreeing to take on the position, Ryan says the party has to unite. Wisconsin native Tom Petri represented the state from 1979 until 2014. He says Ryan has the right idea.

“He has agreed to do it to try to unify elements in the Congress. I very much liked his opening statement when he said that he said that he would take the speakership, which was that he thought rather than just concentrating on opposing, the job now of the House of Representatives was to propose things and take more initiative and leadership than it has in the past,” Petri says.

Still, Petri admits that the party is fractured, and getting to a point where they can put forth ideas and legislation might be difficult. Petri says he’s hopeful the Boehner situation will serve as a wakeup call.

“Mr. Boehner resigned in frustration basically with a lot of dissension in his caucus. And I think that may be sobering for a lot of people in the caucus who realize that it’s one thing to oppose things and tear the house down, but at the end of the day you do that and what do you have? You’ve got to get together and start building,” Petri says.  

Petri says that while it won’t be easy, he believes Ryan can get things back on track.

Related Content