Speaker Paul Ryan has shown House lawmakers that he can change the little things. He oversaw a minor shakeup to the group of Republicans that elects committee chairmen. He's allowed more amendment votes. He's even trying to listen more.
But, in the new year, the Wisconsin Republican is setting up a far more ambitious test: congressional approval of a new Authorization for the Use of Military Force to allow the president to go after the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.
"It would be a good symbol of American resolve to have a new AUMF to go after ISIS, to thoroughly defeat and destroy ISIS," Ryan told a small group of reporters in his office on Friday.
Ryan said he's asked Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to set up "listening sessions" so that members can talk about what they'd like to see in a new war authorization, and Ryan is asking Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) -- the man who chairs the Committee on Foreign Affairs, which would be responsible for undersigning an AUMF -- to oversee the discussion.
It's clear that in Ryan's perfect world, he would get Congress to vote on and approve an AUMF updating the current war authorization, a loosely written permission slip to go after the perpetrators of 9/11 that has been used ever since to conduct military operations in the Middle East.
But, for now, he's just committing to a conversation.
When a reporter asked the speaker if he would hold a vote on what members come up with, Ryan said he'd "want to see" what those listening sessions produce before promising a vote.
"I'm not going to get ahead of our members and their discussions," Ryan said. "But what we're not going to do is pass an AUMF that prohibits the next president from doing what he or she needs to do to destroy ISIS. And so far I've seen a lot of proposals that, I think, handcuff the next president."
Ryan is like a lot of other members in the sense that he'd like to vote on an AUMF -- as long as it's one he likes.
There are a number of reasons Congress hasn't voted on an AUMF. Many members are scared of taking a difficult vote. Many others just have different opinions about what a proper AUMF needs to look like.
Ryan seems to be another member in that latter category, and he has the power to make sure a vote only takes place if he wants it to.
But even if he can somehow get the House behind an AUMF, he'd still have to get the Senate onboard. And Ryan's ability to influence Congress is unlikely to extend to a chamber ruled by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).