Paul Ryan Is Now The Third-Most Powerful Man In Washington

Before today, Paul Ryan was most famous as the running mate to GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012. Of course, he didn't end up becoming vice president, but today, he's getting pretty close: Ryan has officially been elected Speaker of the House of Representatives — putting him second in line to the presidency, behind the VP.

The 45-year-old Wisconsin representative was initially reluctant to pursue the role. In January 2014, he had a point-blank answer about whether he wanted the job of speaker. "No he doesn't," he replied flatly and in the third person. He said at the time that he sees himself "as more of a policy person. I prefer spending my days on policy and my weekends at home with my family." He reiterated that stance earlier this month, saying he wanted to spend time with his young kids and wouldn't take the job.

When he finally did agree to be considered, it was only because he seemed to be the only Republican with any hope of leading the warring House. After the previous speaker, John Boehner, announced his resignation, the House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, his presumed successor, created a bit of chaos when he dropped out of the race.

Ryan said he'd take on the position only after establishing several provisions. In a private meeting with Republicans last week, he apparently told members of Congress that he would consider the job only if he was guaranteed support from his fellow Republicans, who proved divisive and unruly under Boehner. Members of the House present quoted Ryan as saying, "I hope it doesn't sound conditional — but it is." That preference for spending weekends at home also drew heavy criticism after he laid down the condition that he continue his practice of flying home to Wisconsin on the weekends to spend time with his wife and family (a commitment to work-life balance that would be laudable if not for his history of voting against family-leave policies for the rest of America).

Ryan replaces Boehner, who announced in September that he would be stepping down after nearly six years in the job. When Boehner, famous for his uncontrolled weeping, announced his resignation from the job that many call the most thankless one in Washington, he walked to the lectern beaming and whistling.

Ryan, accepting the gavel from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, seemed ready to tackle his new role. "If you have ideas, let's hear them," he challenged his colleagues. "A greater clarity between us can lead to a greater charity among us."

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