Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) is the new Speaker of the House, the 45-year-old former vice presidential running mate of Mitt Romney replacing outgoing Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and inheriting a laundry list of problems facing the country right now.
The nine-term US representative becomes the youngest congressman to serve as House Speaker since 39-year-old Rep. James Blaine (R-Maine) in 1869. To put that in perspective, the first game of American football was played in 1869, and Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were just forming the National Woman Suffrage Association (despite the odd grammar, it is the correct name of the organization).
Surely Blaine had his fair share of burdensome affairs to oversee, and nearly 150 years later, the country still faces monumental strains and difficulties that need immediate attention.
From raising the debt ceiling and discussing immigration and the future of health care, to less crucial yet considerable topics like gambling and daily fantasy sports, Ryan will have plenty on his agenda as House Speaker.
“It’s not until you … stand in this spot, look out and see all 435 members of this House. It’s not until then that you feel it, the weight of responsibility,” Ryan said during his inauguration.
Ryan has big aspirations for bringing the parties across the aisles together in order to reform Washington, DC. The vote to elect him House Speaker shows how polarizing the climate currently is, with not a single Democrat voting in favor of Ryan and 184 of the 188 Democrats instead voting for former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California).
If one were to gamble on whether Ryan will be able to successfully eliminate the partisan divide, the bookmaker’s odds would likely be long.
On the Subject of Gambling
First elected to Congress at the age of 28 in 1999, Ryan decided not to vote on the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) in 2006, and also didn’t publicly express support or co-sponsor the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) in 2015.
In fact, throughout his more than 15-year congressional tenure, Ryan has largely avoided gambling legislation, voting on just four bills and amendments during that span.
The new House Speaker’s apparent disinterest in gambling legislation seems to mimic New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s sentiments that he made apparent at this week’s GOP debate. “We have ISIS and al-Qaeda attacking us and we’re talking about fantasy football!” the governor exclaimed.
Of course, with New Jersey as one of three US states currently with legal online gaming and an ongoing battle to reinstate legal sports betting in his state, Christie might have just been trying to deflect attention on that controversial topic.
Hoppe for Adelson
Las Vegas Sands billionaire Sheldon Adelson wants online gambling banned on the federal level, but he’s been having trouble pushing RAWA through Congress even as GOP lawmakers cater to his interests by keeping the discussion alive.
Adelson likely preferred Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) to replace Boehner as the Utahan introduced RAWA in the House this year. Chaffetz bowed out after Ryan expressed interest.
But not all hope is lost with Ryan, especially after Dave Hoppe was announced as his chief of staff. Through his lobbying firm, Hoppe has advocated for anti-online gambling measures and has worked directly with Adelson’s Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling.
He might not have gotten his first speakership choice in Chaffetz, but it appears the Republican establishment are making sure they stay in good favor with the billionaire as they’ll be appealing for his millions of dollars in campaign contributions as the 2016 election cycle intensifies.