US & Canada

Profile: Paul Ryan, new Speaker of the House

U.S. Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) talks to the media after been nominated for speaker of the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill in Washington October 28, 2015. Image copyright Reuters

Paul Ryan's election to Speaker of the House has elevated the Wisconsin representative and one time vice-presidential candidate to the top Republican spot in Congress - and in direct conflict with President Barack Obama and the conservative wing of his party.

Shortly after John Boehner announced he would be stepping down as speaker of the house, hounded by the right-wing of the party, MrRyan was among those who said they wouldn't be making a bid for the top job.

But weeks later, the former chairman of the House Budget Committee changed his mind said he would consider it if the party united behind him.

His fiscal conservatism may have got the Tea Party and mainstream wings of the Republican party to agree on his election as speaker. But now it is Mr Ryan's job to bring them together on all kinds of legislation. It will not be easy.

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Mr Ryan was born and reared in small-town Janesville, Wisconsin, the son of a lawyer.

He cites the experience of losing his father at the age of 16 - the third generation of Ryan men to die in their 50s - as helping to build his belief in self-reliance.

He is married to tax lawyer Janna Little. The couple have three children and still live in Janesville.

He spent almost his entire career working in Washington, beginning as an ambitious and energetic Senate staff member. Mr Ryan, now 45, was first elected at the age of 28 from the same constituency he represents now.

In recent years, Mr Ryan has emerged as a chief spokesman for a brand of ideologically charged fiscal conservatism that calls for slashing government spending to the bone while also cutting taxes.

In his previous role as chairman of the House Budget Committee, he has helped lead efforts to cut government spending, casting himself as a fiscal hawk.

He is best known for his controversial alternative budget framework, produced to counter President Barack Obama's budgets in 2011 and 2012, which he titled the Path to Prosperity.

The plan suggested $6tn (£3.8tn) from the federal budget over a decade by cutting food aid, education spending and health programmes for the poor and elderly, and more.

It also lowers tax rates, halving corporate income tax.

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Image caption Mr Ryan was a member of the bipartisan budget conference that negotiated during the US federal goverment shutdown

But Mr Ryan has also been the lead Republican negotiator on several last-minute budget deals between the parties and the two chambers.

While he is known primarily for his fiscal conservative policies, he also adheres to the Republican Party's strict social conservative platform.

He has voted against gay adoption, gay marriage and moves to liberalise abortion laws. In 2009 and 2011, he co-sponsored bills that would declare that life begins at conception and would grant foetuses the legal and constitutional rights of people.

He opposes gun control and voted to erect a barrier along the US border with Mexico.

He has in the past listed Ayn Rand as a strong personal influence, reportedly saying the US writer's work - which praises individualism over altruism - was required reading for his staff.

But he has broken from conservative orthodoxy in the past, both in his political career and his personal life, complicating his effort to woo conservatives with his ideological purity.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Mitt Romney chose Paul Ryan to be his running mate, raising the Wisconsin representative's national profile

He voted for President George Bush Jr's drug programme for senior citizens, a massive public entitlement designed without a guaranteed funding stream. In late 2008, he voted for the bank bailout.

He was accused of hypocrisy after acknowledging that his office lobbied for federal stimulus money in 2009, despite his earlier denials.

But Mr Ryan's appeal to conservative, Tea Party voters was strong enough that in Republican nominee Mitt Romney chose him as his running mate for the 2012 election.

The campaign's loss to a sitting president did not seem to hurt Mr Ryan's political capital, and he returned to his role in the House until Mr Boehner stepped down in 2015.

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