Dynamic duo: Can Paul Ryan and Barack Obama work together?

As newly elected Speaker of the House, Rep. Paul Ryan faces a divided party and weak relations with the president. 

Andrew Harnik/AP
House Speaker John Boehner (r.) stands with his successor Rep. Paul Ryan (R) of Wisconsin in the House Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thurs., Oct. 29, 2015. Republicans rallied behind Ryan to elect him the House's 54th speaker on Thursday as a splintered GOP turned to the youthful but battle-tested lawmaker to mend its self-inflicted wounds and craft a conservative message to woo voters in next year's elections.

On Thursday, Rep. Paul Ryan (R) of Wisconsin was elected Speaker of the House, assuming command from former Speaker John Boehner, who resigned a month ago, and breathing new hope for progress into the legislative process.

Just weeks ago, House Republicans were in a panic after heir apparent California Rep. Kevin McCarthy backed out of the nomination, due in part to lack of support from the Freedom Caucus, even as Mr. Ryan maintained he was uninterested in the position. Luckily for the GOP, scrambling to find another candidate, Ryan came around – and showed that he is not afraid to speak truth to the powerful, even within his own caucus.

"Let’s be frank: The House is broken," Ryan said Thursday. “We are not solving problems. We are adding to them. And I am not interested in laying blame. We are not settling scores. We are wiping the slate clean.”

That is certainly easier said than done, but Ryan may just be the man for the job. As he said Thursday:

What a relief to [the public] it would be if we finally got our act together—what a weight off their shoulders. How reassuring it would be if we actually fixed the tax code, put patients in charge of their health care, grew our economy, strengthened our military, lifted people out of poverty, and paid down the debt. At this point, nothing could be more inspiring than a job well done. Nothing could stir the heart more than real, concrete results.

Now, as the now third most powerful man in the country, Ryan will have to find a way to partner with President Barack Obama without appearing to neglect his House.

Ryan hasn't met face to face with President Obama in over two years, and they still haven’t scheduled a meeting, reports Politico. Proof of mutual respect or an icy detente?

The two men have worked together in the past, but they haven’t always seen eye to eye. Ryan ran as Mitt Romney’s vice presidential candidate in 2012, after all. But after Obama and Ryan set aside differences to fast-track a trade bill last summer, Obama’s administration has seemed to warm to Ryan.

"Instead of just parroting talking points, like the White House saw the almost-speaker Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) doing, their sense of Ryan is that he’s the one actually coming up with the ideas," writes Politico's Edward-Isaac Dovere.

"Unlike the tea party, which they think doesn't believe in any government, they think Ryan has an actual theory of small government. He knows how to maneuver politically and is willing to take risks in a way the White House came to believe former Speaker John Boehner never could or would," writes Mr. Dovere.

Ryan brings a sense of freshness and a willingness to engage – a welcome respite after Mr. Boehner, categorized by critics as "unable or unwilling to do anything that would endanger his hold on power."

But the true test for Ryan, at least at the start, won’t be whether he can work with Obama, but whether he can unite his own party.

If nothing else, Ryan is willing to negotiate and open doors. "Neither the members nor the people are satisfied with how things are going," he said Thursday.  "We need to make some changes, starting with how the House does business."

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