All the shouting can get a bit muddled, so we laid out the four main arguments for and against Ryan becoming (and succeeding as) speaker. Here they are:
Argument No. 1: Is Ryan conservative enough?
Yes: As recently as 2012, Ryan was perhaps the face of the conservative wing of the party. It's one of the reasons GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney picked Ryan to be his running mate — a move The Fix wrote at the time was bold and risky. That's because Ryan is the author of a strongly conservative budget that proposed making Medicare a voucher program, instituting steep cuts in federal spending and lowering tax rates for everyone, including the wealthy.
Ryan has also credited conservative-economic-thought leaders, including the late former congressman Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.), for having a "huge influence" on his politics.
No: Ryan has supported comprehensive immigration reform. He helped draft a 2013 bill that, according to the New York Times, would allow undocumented immigrants to "get right with the law" and eventually become citizens — though in 2012, The Washington Post reported that Ryan said he didn't support any pathway to permanent legal status.
Whatever his current stance, Ryan's willingness to debate immigration reform is something Democrats are praising him for. Just look at Rep. Luis Gutierrez (Ill.), who said, "Paul Ryan is the kind of individual that would work with people on the other side of the aisle, and that's what we need." And if you thought Gutierrez might have had ulterior motives — such as stirring up trouble among Republicans — you might also note that none other than Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said he hopes Ryan becomes the next speaker.
Argument No. 2: Can conservatives trust Ryan?
Yes: In a tentative truce, about 70 percent of House Freedom Caucus members — who are among the most conservative lawmakers in Congress — said they'd vote for Ryan for speaker.
"[W]e really think that this is a good step for the conservative movement," Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) told The Post's Mike DeBonis. And Ryan has extended a few olive branches in his bid to become speaker, such as considering enforcing the "Hastert rule," which requires a majority of Republican support before he brings a bill to the floor for a vote. Such a rule would prohibit the kind of dealing with Democrats that Boehner has resorted to repeatedly amid conservative obstinateness.
No: The Boehners of the world (read: establishment) certainly like Ryan. And that's reason enough to be suspicious, say conservative media types such as Matt Drudge, Mark Levin and Laura Ingraham, the last of whom said Ryan is "basically John Boehner with better abs."
Plus, Ryan is asking conservatives to agree to his demands before he even steps into office, like changing other House rules to make it harder than just a simple majority to oust a speaker. That would take a major source of leverage away from the Freedom Caucus, argues the conservative Web site Breitbart.
Argument No. 3: Can Ryan stand up to Democrats?
Yes: "Our opponents can consider themselves on-notice," a fiery Ryan declared from a stage in Tampa in August 2012 as he accepted the GOP nomination for vice president. "We want this debate. We will win this debate."
Ryan came out swinging as a vice presidential candidate because he has proven that he can do battle. The Post's Karen Tumulty pointed out in 2012 that when Ryan first introduced his budget three years earlier, Republican leaders were skittish about its bold proposal to turn Medicare into a voucher system — and how Democrats would use it against Republicans, given the American public is very resistant to changes in entitlement programs. Ryan's budget "has since passed the House twice since then," Tumulty wrote, adding that it "represents the epicenter of conservative Republican philosophy. "
No: When the going has gotten tough — such as with the 2013 budget showdown — Ryan has been the one negotiating with Democrats. In 2013, he cut a deal with Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) to pass a bipartisan budget. Even though it reduced the deficit without raising taxes, conservatives weren't happy that the compromise raised spending by about $45 billion more in 2014 than without the Ryan-Murray deal. Ryan also failed to negotiate any changes to Medicare or Social Security and presided over cuts to defense spending — a conservative no-no.
"I'm proud of this agreement," Ryan said at the time.
Argument No. 4: Does Ryan have what it takes to lead?
Yes: Let's not forget Ryan's résumé: Despite his comparative youth, he's a 16-year member of Congress; he's the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, which is the main tax panel in the House; and before that he was chairman of the House Budget Committee. In 2011, Republicans chose him to give a GOP response to President Obama's State of the Union address. Ryan is a policy wonk who has climbed the political ladder, demonstrating he can at least play some politics, too.
Here's Romney talking about Ryan earlier in October: "He is such a man of such talent and such integrity and character that he's a real resource for the country."
No: When he said that about Ryan, Romney was actually urging him not to take the speakership because it could ruin his ambitions. "No honeymoon." "Monumental obstacles." "A hornet's nest." These are all recent phrases used to describe Ryan's challenges as he ascends the leadership ladder. If a 24-year veteran like Boehner saw no way out of this drama other than to step down, what makes us think a man who has never been in leadership (apart from chairing two committees) can do it?
Ryan has also shown little appetite for politics. He's more interested in policy and resisted the effort to draft him as speaker. Can someone so reluctant to take on the job and all it entails really have what it takes to succeed in it?
We'll just have to wait and see to find out.