How Paul Ryan Became Speaker of the House

The Failed 2012 Vice Presidential Nominee's Unlikely Campaign

Paul Ryan became the 54th person to hold the powerful speaker of the House position in Congress, the culmination of a series of breathtaking political developments in 2015 that included the abrupt move by of one of Washington's most entrenched politicians to abandon the post amid turmoil in the Republican Conference.

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So how did the Wisconsin Republican end up here just a few years after a devastating Election Day loss as the vice presidential nominee in 2012? How did he ascend to the highest office in the House of Representatives in October 2015? Here's a look at the events leading up to Ryan's selection as speaker, described as the worst job in Washington, D.C..

John Boehner Stuns Washington and Says He'll Quit as Speaker

Speaker of the House John Boehner
House Speaker John Boehner announced he was quitting the position and resigning from Congress in 2015. Win McNamee/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Make no mistake: Boehner is a conservative Republican. But he wasn't conservative enough for the ultra-right wing of his conference, and his speakership was always tenuous since being elevated to the position in 2011. Rather than dig his heels in and fight, Boehner quit. Here are five reasons for his resignation.

The Freedom Caucus and Boehner's Downfall

U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio
Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio was the first chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. Alex Wong/Getty Images News

The Freedom Caucus was pushing Boehner to defund Planned Parenthood even if it meant forcing a government shutdown, something the speaker wouldn't let happen. So what is the Freedom Caucus? Where did it come from? How did it get so powerful? Here's a look at its brief history and mission

The Obscure Mechanism That Could Have Taken Boehner Down

113th Congress meets
House Speaker John Boehner swears in the newly elected members of the 113th Congress in the House Chambers on Jan. 3, 2013. Mark Wilson/Getty Images News

A rarely used procedure called the the Vacate the Chair rule allows any member of the House to bring about an immediate vote to remove the speaker. If a majority of 435 House members supports the motion, the speaker is considered ousted from the role. Before John Boehner quit, the Freedom Caucus suggested it had the votes to win his ouster. Read about the Vacate the Chair motion.

Paul Ryan Reluctantly Accepts the Call

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan
U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin is the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News

The Wisconsin lawmaker reluctantly agreed to seek the position on his own terms. He set three big demands on his fellow Republicans before agreeing to run for speaker, some of which were met by outright rejection. Here's a look at what he wanted. 

Paul Ryan Is the Youngest House Speaker in nearly 150 Years

Robert Hunter
Robert Hunter was 30 when he was elected speaker of the House. U.S. Government

Ryan was tapped for speaker of the House at age 45, making him the youngest person to hold the post since the Ulysses S. Grant administration in the 1860s. He was also the first House speaker from Generation X, the group of people born between 1964 and 1981. Here's a look at the five youngest speakers in history. 

Some People Wanted Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump to Be Speaker

Donald Trump
Donald Trump is financing much of his 2016 presidential campaign on his own. Scott Olson/Getty Images News

Yes, it's true: Several pundits made the case that the House should bring in an outsider, even a dynamic (some would say bombastic) voice such as Donald Trump or former Speaker Newt Gingrich, to lead the disparate factions of the Republican Party. But could that actually happen? Yes, it could. And here's why.