Newly elected House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) gives his first address to lawmakers on Thursday, Oct. 29. (AP)

When Speaker Paul D. Ryan took over the gavel from John A. Boehner this fall, he promised to "make some changes" to fix a broken House of Representatives.

Broadly speaking, proposed changes from Ryan (R-Wis.) so far can be broken down into two major shifts.

One was to shift the hierarchy of the House by giving hard-line conservatives in his party more leadership opportunities and rank-and-file members more chances to speak up.

The second was to move his party's priorities from only trying to undo what President Obama has done — "as if we could time travel back to 2009," he said in December — and propose alternatives to Obama's and let the American people decide which is best.

[Paul Ryan: I need a Republican president. Badly.]

"For our party to be a true majority party, we have to offer an alternative way forward," he told Yahoo News's Katie Couric in an interview recently.

But the problem for Ryan is that his two ideas have the potential to work against one another. And as the chamber's first two major votes of 2016 demonstrate, they possibly already have.

You could be forgiven for thinking the first few weeks in the House this year look a lot like a day in the life of Boehner's House. Republicans returned from the holiday break and immediately voted to repeal Obama's health-care law, knowing full well it wouldn't get past the White House. (The bill also stripped federal funds from Planned Parenthood.) Ryan took the process one step further than Boehner did by working with Senate Republicans to force Obama to veto the bill.

The new speaker is taking this dead-end political exercise further still by holding a vote Tuesday to try to override Obama's veto. House Republicans don't have the votes, and even if they did, a veto override attempt would most certainly be blocked by Senate Democrats.

But Ryan is spending time on this nonetheless. Trying to understand why — and where this fits with his vision for the House — is a venture into the delicate and sometimes contradictory balance Ryan is attempting to strike between conservatives' ideas and his own.

You could argue that in pursuing the repeal of Obamacare to this dead end, Ryan has fulfilled Shift No. 1: Give conservatives more say in what the House should do. Attempting to repeal Obamacare, as hopeless as that might be, has been one of their top priorities since the Democratic Congress passed it in 2010.

But you could also argue that in trying to repeal all or parts of Obamacare for the 62nd time, Ryan is undermining Shift No. 2: Stepping back from being an opposition party to, in his words, "being a forward-leaning, effective-proposition party."

"Our goal here is not to simply just pass things and watch them go nowhere because we have a White House that doesn’t agree with us," Ryan said on "Fox News Sunday." "Our goal here is to say, ‘Here is what we will do in 2017 if the country gives us the authority to do this.'”

It's hard to see how repealing Obamacare fits with that goal.

Ryan has indicated the repeal was an important, symbolic exercise to set the stage between Democrats and Republicans in an election year. Congressional Republicans finally found a way, through a complex procedural measure known as reconciliation, to get the repeal past a Senate filibuster and onto Obama's desk.

"We've been going at this for a long time," he told Couric.

Ryan could also be calculating that the image of Obama having to veto legislation to undo his own health-care law could help galvanize disenchanted Republican voters — who disapprove of the Republican-led Congress in higher numbers than Democrats and independents, according to a November Gallup survey. After all, Ryan and the GOP showed this bill can make it to the president's desk; now they just need a Republican president to sign it.


Or maybe Ryan thinks it's just not time to propose an Obamacare replacement. He said on "Fox News Sunday" that he plans to roll out Republican agendas in the spring, the aim being to arrive just in time for the eventual party's nominee to pick up and run with these ideas for the general election.

But what's also probably happening here is that Ryan is caught between competing interests — his own ideas for how the House should be run, and the ideas of an increasingly powerful wing in his party — about how the House should be run.

The new speaker is trying carefully to balance both, but as these first few weeks of 2016 show, that may be as impossible a job as the last speaker found it to be.