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It's Already Go Time for Ryan's Speaker Staff

Ryan conducts a pen-and-pad briefing with reporters. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Everybody knows Dave Hoppe — at least that’s how it seems in Washington's GOP circles.  

Presuming Paul D. Ryan wins the gavel later this week, one of the youngest House members to become speaker picked a grownup with reach across the Capitol to run his operation. Hoppe, 64, could play a pivotal role brokering signature legislative items that make it to the White House.  

In selecting Hoppe well ahead of Thursday's floor vote, Ryan, 45, also signaled he realizes it’s go time and that he can't delay. Hoppe, a lobbyist at one of the city’s biggest firms, Squire Patton Boggs, will assemble a staff that will help Ryan steer a fractured GOP conference through the fallout from mega policy fights. “It is a monumental challenge,” said Michael Johnson, chief of staff from 1977 to 1990 to Bob Michel, a former House Republican leader. Johnson, now a lobbyist with the OB-C Group, worked with Hoppe when both were House leadership aides.  

“The importance of Hoppe is not just his resume,” Johnson said. “It’s that his leadership experience crosses generations on the Republican side.” Hoppe spans the pragmatic Ronald Reagan years and the feisty, Newt Gingrich-led Contract with America revolution to today’s open rebellion by the House Freedom Caucus within the GOP.  

“It’s an almost ungovernable situation now,” Johnson said. “Hoppe has experience through all of those transitions, so, there aren’t too many people on the planet more qualified for that job.”  

Hoppe, who referred comment to Ryan’s communications director Brendan Buck, was already heading to the Capitol on Monday, said his current colleague and one-time Hill boss Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss. To avoid any potential conflict of interest, Hoppe "has ceased all lobbying activity and is no longer working on client matters," according to Angelo Kakolyris, a Squire Patton Boggs spokesman.  

Lott, who entrusted Hoppe to run his Senate majority leader office, said he told Hoppe to deliver a message to Ryan: He's happy Ryan is willing to serve as speaker but sad the Wisconsin Republican is nabbing Lott's longtime aide, who had just joined the Squire Patton Boggs team earlier this year.  

“Paul is a policy wonk, so most of the people around him are policy people. Now, the speaker's office needs a different set of criteria,” Lott said. “Dave has those relationships on both sides of the Capitol. It was a brilliant stroke. ... You need the blend of experience and youth.”  

Ryan is expected to select Joyce Meyer, one of his closest and longest-serving aides, for a key role in the speaker's office. She is currently staff director of Ways and Means, the panel Ryan currently leads. He likely will also pull Buck, a former aide to Speaker John A. Boehner and current Ways and Means communications director, and policy director Austin Smythe from the panel to the speaker’s office.