Rep. Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanHow Kevin McCarthy sold his soul to Donald Trump On The Trail: Retirements offer window into House Democratic mood Stopping the next insurrection MORE (R-Wis.) says he won't sacrifice family time if he agrees to take up the Speaker's gavel, and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is hoping that focus will lead Republicans to embrace new protections for all working families.
Democrats have long pushed legislation to expand paid family leave, extend childcare benefits and mandate paid sick leave as part of a broader effort to help working families — proposals rejected by the Republicans as job killers.
But Ryan's recent vow to prioritize his family as Speaker, even if it means he'll raise less money for the party, has given the House minority leader new hope that the GOP might approach those reforms differently under Ryan's reign.
Speaking to reporters Thursday in the Capitol, Pelosi said she's heartened that the discussions surrounding Ryan's candidacy have highlighted "his respect for his family-work balance."
"That's very exciting because that's what we want for all of America's families," she said.
"Members of Congress have paid sick leave — it means a lot to the family-work balance," she added. "I hope that that respect for his particular situation would translate for a recognition of what that means to all of America's families."
Ryan, after initially rejecting entreaties to enter the race to replace outgoing Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerDemocrats eager to fill power vacuum after Pelosi exit Stopping the next insurrection Biden, lawmakers mourn Harry Reid MORE (R-Ohio), reversed course on Tuesday, telling the Republican Conference that he would step into the role if certain conditions were met. Among those stipulations, he warned that he won't adopt BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerDemocrats eager to fill power vacuum after Pelosi exit Stopping the next insurrection Biden, lawmakers mourn Harry Reid MORE's brutal fundraising schedule because it would consume too much time away from his young family in Janesville, Wis.
"I cannot and will not give up my family time," Ryan told reporters Tuesday night, following a closed-door GOP meeting. "I may not be able to be on the road as much as previous Speakers, but I pledged to make up for it with more time communicating our message."
Some conservatives pounced, saying anyone not willing to commit to long hours doesn't merit the gavel.
"The Speaker has to work more than 40 hours a week," Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus, said Wednesday. "It is a tough job. John Boehner spent hundreds and hundreds of days of the year on the road fundraising for some pretty vulnerable members. I mean, what happens if that ends? I think there's a lot of members who might lose their jobs."
Ryan was quick to fire back, saying he works plenty hard to assume the post.
“Hey, look, I’m here four days a week as it is,” Ryan said Wednesday. “I’m not going to spend the other three days a week running around America."
In that view, the House Ways and Means Committee chairman has found unusual allies in the Democrats, who are hailing his focus on family time even as they're pushing him to expand that privilege to others.
"Family time should not be a privilege reserved for the Speaker of the House," Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenOver 80 lawmakers urge Biden to release memo outlining his authority on student debt cancellation Kelly pushes back on Arizona Democrats' move to censure Sinema Fiscal conservatives should support postal reform MORE (D-Mass.) tweeted Wednesday. "You deserve it — and so does everyone else."
Pelosi agrees, saying she hopes Ryan's defense of family amid the current leadership turmoil causes him to reconsider some of his past policy positions — particularly the sweeping spending plans he championed as previous chairman of the House Budget Committee.
Democrats have hammered those budgets for years over their sharp cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and a host of domestic programs benefiting seniors, minorities and low-income communities.
"Seniors should be watching the Ryan priorities carefully, because it has a direct impact on cost to them and their health," Pelosi said Thursday.
"We have a ... person who knows the territory, knows the issues, so that's helpful. But [there's] also a clear distinction as to what our statement of values in a budget would be," she added. "Maybe ... in praise of family there will be a change of heart as to how that affects, not only the well-being of seniors, but of their children who have some responsibility for them.”