(Bloomberg) — Paul Ryan now has the job he said all along he never wanted.
The Wisconsin Republican was elected U.S. House speaker Thursday with a mandate to unite his fractious caucus — and no clear path to do it. The vote ends weeks of drama over who will lead the House after a hard-line Republican faction drove Ryan’s predecessor, John Boehner, to resign.
Ryan inherits a party conference that’s divided over whether to cooperate with Democrats and the Obama administration to forge agreements such as the two-year budget deal passed Wednesday by the House, or instead use their power over the purse to try to force policy concessions from the president.
Ryan got 236 votes to 184 for Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. Conservative Republican Dan Webster of Florida got nine votes while three other people — including former Secretary of State Colin Powell — got one vote. In all, there were nine Republican defections from Ryan and three Democratic break-aways from Pelosi.
“We have nothing to fear from honest differences honestly stated. If you have ideas, let’s hear them,” Ryan, 45, plans to tell House members in a speech immediately after the election, according to his office. “A greater clarity between us can lead to a greater charity among us.”
Some, including Boehner, say the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee — who now will be second in line to succeed the president — understands he may be ruining his chances of ever being elected president by taking the difficult job.
“I think he recognizes that,” Boehner told reporters Wednesday.
Ryan has much to prove and perhaps little time to prove it. Some House Republicans, particularly the hardline conservative flank personified by the House Freedom Caucus, opposed the policy-making process under Boehner, including his willingness to compromise with Democrats.
Other House Republicans have grown tired of feuding between factions. Ryan is being promoted as someone who as speaker can help resolve internal party differences.
Freedom Caucus member Trent Franks of Arizona said Ryan “has the unique ability to create a compelling message and to disseminate it in a way that people understand it.”
Ryan promised to give rank-and-file Republicans a stronger say in running the House, but he also backed this week’s bipartisan two-year budget accord. The Freedom Caucus called the deal a “fiscal monstrosity.”
See also: House GOP Unveils Budget Plan
He only agreed to seek the job last week after initially telling colleagues he didn’t want it. First, he insisted on pledges of support from key Republican factions, including most of the three dozen conservatives who make up the Freedom Caucus.