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D.C. Leaders, Black Caucus cautious about House Speaker Ryan

DC-Leader-BlackD.C. Leaders, Black Caucus cautious about House Speaker Ryan

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D)

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) was elected as the new speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

By James Wright

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) as well as other city leaders, District statehood activists, and members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) have developed a wait-and-see attitude toward the new speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) was elected by the House as the new leader of the body on Oct. 29, 2015. Norton said immediately after that she “will reach out and look forward to working with our new speaker, Paul Ryan.”

“Paul is a friend who I have worked with in the past,” Norton said. “I first got to know him from his relationship with my good friend, the late representative and former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Jack Kemp, who was Paul’s mentor. I see Jack Kemp’s continuing influence on Paul in his outspoken leadership on a Republican approach to poverty, a subject that other Republicans often neglect.”

The delegate said Ryan’s vote on District statehood “in recent years has not been un-like others in his [Republican] caucus,” meaning that he isn’t in favor of statehood. “However, I believe Paul understands the importance of self-government, and I do not think he is un-receptive to our demands for home rule,” Norton said. “He has not been tested on the degree to which he would respect the District’s right to self-government.”

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) had a conversation with former House Speaker John Boehner earlier this year and she expects to talk with Ryan, as well. “We will reach out to the new speaker,” Bowser told the AFRO on Nov. 2. “We haven’t made contact with his office yet.”

Nevertheless, it is a courtesy on Capitol Hill for the speaker and District mayor to meet at least once while either is in power. When they do meet, District statehood is always a point in the discussion.

Anise Jenkins, the co-leader for Stand Up for Democracy! a pro-statehood organization, admits she doesn’t know very much about Ryan but is sure of one thing. “I know that he is not a co-sponsor of the present D.C. Statehood bill that is in the Congress,” Jenkins said. “There are no Republican law-makers who support the bill at this time. However, we will lobby him on the issue like we’ve lobbied other speakers.”

The only CBC member to support Ryan was U.S. Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah), stating that she likes his “commitment to family.”

The Democrats in the House, including the party’s CBC members, voted for U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), a former House speaker and the present House Minority Leader, which was to be expected. The vote for speaker is always along party lines.

Nevertheless, some CBC members wished Ryan well in his new role. U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), who has disagreed with Ryan regarding welfare and public assistance issues tweeted “Congratulations to my friend, colleague and fellow Wisconsinite Speaker Ryan.”

“Best of luck, Paul,” the tweet said. “Let’s get to work.”

Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) said, “Speaker Ryan is an out-standing public servant with a long record of service.

“He has the potential to be an effective leader that works with the whole House to move our great nation forward. I look forward to continuing to work with him in the House of Representatives.”

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