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John Boehner Hands Over Speaker Reins To Paul Ryan


Now, the passing of the gavel in the House of Representatives today. Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan is officially the new speaker of the House. His predecessor, John Boehner, resigned rather than face down the hard-line conservatives who wanted to throw him out. Boehner said he leaves the house with no regrets. Here's NPR congressional reporter Susan Davis.

SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: As he stood in the well of the House, Speaker John Boehner reached for his handy box of tissues before he addressed his colleagues for the last time.


JOHN BOEHNER: I rise today to inform you that I will resign as speaker of the House effective upon the election of my successor.

DAVIS: A sometimes tearful Boehner reminded a cantankerous House, the change in Washington is slow and incremental. And that, he says, is a good thing.


BOEHNER: So believe in the long, slow struggle. Believe in this country's ability to meet her challenges and to lead the world. And remember, you can't do a big job alone, especially this one.

DAVIS: Boehner's big job now goes to a man who was a college student when he volunteered for Boehner's first congressional campaign back in 1990.


BOEHNER: He was putting up campaign signs for me. His name is Paul Ryan.

DAVIS: Paul Ryan did not volunteer to be Speaker. He was pressured to take the job when it became clear he was the only candidate nearly all House Republicans could vote for.


BOEHNER: There's a difference between being asked to do something and being called to do something. Paul is being called.

DAVIS: That call now requires Ryan to reach a delicate balance. He must ease conservative frustration over how the House does business and, at the same time, find compromise with President Obama and congressional Democrats. In keeping with House tradition, minority leader Nancy Pelosi handed him the gavel. She then extended her hand to Ryan.


NANCY PELOSI: Today in this House, a page is turned. A new chapter has begun.

DAVIS: For Ryan, that new chapter begins with an understanding of the same responsibility Boehner felt to the institution, not just to the Republican Party. Ryan took a moment on this ceremonial day to reflect on that new responsibility.


PAUL RYAN: It's not until you hold this gavel, stand in this spot, look out and see all 435 members of this House as if all America is sitting right in front of you - it's not till then that you feel it - the weight of responsibility, the gravity of the moment.

DAVIS: This moment, Ryan said, begins with moving past the petty spats that have made it hard for Republicans to advance a legislative agenda.


RYAN: But let's be frank. The House is broken. We're not solving problems. We're adding to them, and I am not interested in laying blame. We are not settling scores. We are wiping the slate clean.

DAVIS: For his part, Ryan pledged to be less top-down and more collaborative. He appealed to all lawmakers to move past the in-fighting and focus that energy on easing the financial struggles of Americans. He says they're tired of hearing about Washington dysfunction.


RYAN: They look at Washington, and all they see is chaos. What a relief to them it would be if we finally got our acts together - what a weight off of their shoulders.

DAVIS: Ryan said in order to do that, Congress should prioritize, among other things, overhauling the tax code, eliminating poverty and paying down the national debt. Susan Davis, NPR News, the Capitol. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Susan Davis is a congressional correspondent for NPR and a co-host of the NPR Politics Podcast. She has covered Congress, elections, and national politics since 2002 for publications including USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal, National Journal and Roll Call. She appears regularly on television and radio outlets to discuss congressional and national politics, and she is a contributor on PBS's Washington Week with Robert Costa. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Philadelphia native.