Paul Ryan Would Be the Most Conservative House Speaker in Recent History

An academic political scaling system shows House speakers have increasingly come from the more ideological wings of their party.

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Stephanie Stamm
Oct. 21, 2015, 8 p.m.

Paul Ry­an could po­ten­tially be the most con­ser­vat­ive House speak­er in re­cent his­tory, wheth­er cur­rent far-right mem­bers like it or not.

Us­ing com­mon-space DW-NOM­IN­ATE—a scal­ing sys­tem de­veloped by aca­dem­ics that al­lows the com­par­is­on of polit­ic­al ideo­logy through his­tory, par­tic­u­larly on eco­nom­ic policy—Na­tion­al Journ­al charted the House’s last 11 speak­ers by in­tens­ity, from very mod­er­ate to very lib­er­al or very con­ser­vat­ive.

Com­pared with pre­vi­ous Re­pub­lic­an House speak­ers, the cur­rent chair­man of the Ways and Means Com­mit­tee has the most po­lar­ized con­ser­vat­ive score. While his rank isn’t the highest on the Hill—the scal­ing sys­tem puts him with­in the top 20 per­cent of the most con­ser­vat­ive con­gress­man—Ry­an’s high­er scor­ing is on trend with the gradu­al in­crease of Re­pub­lic­an House speak­er con­ser­vat­ive scores since the 1960s.

The Wis­con­sin con­gress­man has en­dorse­ments from some Re­pub­lic­an fac­tions and the sup­port of most of the House Free­dom Caucus, which led the fight against Speak­er John Boehner. Rep. Daniel Web­ster, a Flor­ida Re­pub­lic­an, had earned the hard-right group’s en­dorse­ment be­fore Ry­an entered the race, also mak­ing him a con­tender. DW-NOM­IN­ATE as­signs le­gis­lat­ors a score between a very lib­er­al, -1, and very con­ser­vat­ive, 1: Web­ster’s con­ser­vat­ive score is a slightly more mod­er­ate 0.48 com­pared with Ry­an’s rat­ing of 0.58.

Ry­an’s of­fice says he will serve as speak­er should all ma­jor Re­pub­lic­an caucuses sup­port him by Fri­day. The GOP’s elec­tion for House speak­er will take place on Oc­to­ber 28.

Across the aisle, Demo­crat­ic speak­er scores fluc­tu­ated his­tor­ic­ally; however, the most re­cent Demo­crat­ic speak­er, Nancy Pelosi, had a stronger lib­er­al rat­ing than her pre­de­cessors.

If Ry­an of­fi­cially de­cides not to run, the GOP will have to deal with a mel­ee of party mem­bers will­ing to step up and take the con­gress­man’s place. Re­pub­lic­ans Jason Chaf­fetz of Utah, Bill Flores of Texas, and Lynn West­mo­re­land of Geor­gia have all said they will run for the speak­er­ship if Ry­an chooses not to do so, among oth­ers.

DW-NOM­IN­ATE com­mon-space scores are based on House and Sen­ate roll-call votes. You can learn more about the sys­tem here.

This art­icle has been up­dated.

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