Timeline of Paul D. Ryan’s long and steady rise from a waiter at a Tex-Mex eatery on Capitol Hill to speaker of the House:
● 1990: As a student at Miami University in southwest Ohio, Ryan volunteers on his first congressional race, for a little-known state legislator running in a primary that included an incumbent and a former congressman. John A. Boehner wins his race that fall, with Ryan’s help.
● 1992: After graduating, Ryan leaves his family’s home town, Janesville, Wis., for Washington to work for a senator from Wisconsin. Helping to make ends meet, he waits tables at Tortilla Coast, at its former location on Massachusetts Ave. NE, a second job that leads to him meeting his mentor, Jack Kemp, a former congressman who is secretary of housing and urban development and will later be a Republican vice presidential nominee.
● 1995: After spending a couple of years working for Kemp’s think tank, Ryan goes to work for Sam Brownback (R), a future senator and Kansas governor who had just won a House seat in the midterm wave that gave the GOP its first majority in 40 years.
● 1998: Having returned home to Janesville, Ryan, at age 28, wins a House seat with 57 percent of the vote, one of only two times he received less than 60 percent in a district that sits southwest of Milwaukee. Two years later, he marries Janna Little, who grew up in Oklahoma and became a Washington lawyer. The couple eventually move to Ryan’s home town and have three children.
● 2005: After seven years of largely back-bench work, Ryan takes a prominent role in trying to push President George W. Bush’s plan to create private accounts for Social Security. The plan is blasted by Democrats and never comes to a vote in the Ways and Means Committee.
● 2007: Republicans, having been routed in the 2006 midterm election, tap Ryan to serve as the ranking Republican on the Budget Committee. There, he becomes the fiscal policy leader of the GOP, but not before several years in which he’s considered too conservative. Even in the minority, 20 percent of the GOP caucus regularly oppose Ryan’s alternative budgets in those early years.
● 2010: In January, President Obama attends the House Republican retreat in Baltimore and singles out Ryan as a serious policy analyst. In a scene more reminiscent of British “question time” with the prime minister, Obama and Ryan publicly debate the merits of the “road map” budget plan. In November, Republicans win the House majority, bringing in an enormous 87-member class of freshmen who mostly view Ryan as their ideological leader.
● 2012: Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney picks Ryan, then 42, as his running mate in a campaign that would end in defeat. Ryan is reelected to his House seat with 54 percent of the vote, his lowest tally ever.
● 2013: Suffering what he calls a “funk for a good six months,” Ryan keeps his head down most of the year, working behind the scenes on a mix of anti-poverty policies and trying to help shepherd along a bipartisan group of House members working on immigration legislation. By the end of the year, he reemerges to craft with Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) a two-year budget framework.
● 2015: Ryan begins the year by becoming chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, the most influential panel in Congress, and early on scores a couple of big bipartisan victories: a permanent fix to Medicare reimbursement rates and giving the president greater trade negotiating power. Despite internal rancor, Ryan repeatedly swears off any interest in becoming speaker, even as multiple candidates emerge and founder.
● Oct. 29: Yielding to the calls, Ryan gives in and wins the speaker vote. He succeeds Boehner.