Only 61 people in the history of the United States have held the position. It's the second most powerful in the country and second in line to the presidency.
But after this week, not many people may want to be Speaker of the House.
John Boehner, the chain-smoking, politically moderate, congressman from southwestern Ohio who has held the job for the past three years, has seen his power to corral his Republican caucus tested.
He's just come out on the losing end of a ferocious battle with President Barack Obama to reopen the government and avert a possible default.
"We fought the good fight, we just didn't win," Boehner told a Cincinnati radio station on Wednesday.
A GOP congressman who was in a closed-door meeting late Wednesday afternoon with the caucus told CNN's Dana Bash: "Speaker Boehner said, 'Look, I don't want everybody beating each other up. I know this isn't everything we want, but we're going to live to fight another day.'"
Boehner -- who despite his very public defeat is still safe in his job as the House leader, say some key conservatives -- received a standing ovation Wednesday afternoon during that meeting of the entire House Republican conference.
"I've actually been very proud of Speaker Boehner the last two-and-a-half weeks. I don't think that he should be ashamed of anything he has done," Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho told reporters.
But Obama has doubted Boehner's ability to get things done, saying earlier, "he can't control his caucus."
Still, Newt Gingrich, who held the position during the last government shutdown in the mid 1990s, put it this way: "It's actually the hardest job in the city."
The inside game
Boehner has been challenged by the small but powerful right wing of the GOP caucus: the tea party conservatives.
He was reluctantly pushed into adopting a tactic to link the debt ceiling and funding the government to defunding Obama's signature health care plan, known as Obamacare, even though he was against the idea himself. Ultimately, that tactic failed.
But wrangling with the tea party isn't his only challenge.
His members range from the rebellious Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, who publicly rebuked Boehner by calling instead for a "bold" leader, to Rep. Frank LoBiondo of New Jersey, a Republican who represents an urban, Democratic-leaning district. And they all have different agendas and different ideas of how to push back against a Democratic Senate and a Democratic President.
Still, he needs their support -- he needs at least 217 of his 232 Republicans to pass a law -- because no Speaker wants to rely on members of the opposite party to pass legislation. That's the fastest way to lose power.
But, this time, he will likely have to do just that, counting on the entire Democratic caucus in the House to vote "yes" on the bill to end the current crisis while convincing some in his own party to go along.
And this isn't the first time he's had to rely on that formula.
The heavy lift
"Until you've tried it, you cannot imagine the energy level it takes to try to do what Boehner is doing," Gingrich said.
But the latest quagmire over government spending and the debt limit once again display Boehner's challenge.
Early on, many said Boehner would never get conservative members of the GOP to acquiesce on federal spending and the debt ceiling, and would need Democrats to get anything through.
Even when the stakes were highest and public opinion polling against his efforts, Boehner still struggled. He straddled the GOP caucus and the President in negotiations, but ultimately fell short.
As the tide was shifting and the Senate deal took shape earlier this week, Boehner made one last stab to get Republican demands attached to the bill. But he couldn't get consensus among the GOP and the effort collapsed late on Tuesday.
"It's a very severe problem if he gets beaten ... and if he gets beaten publicly," Gingrich said.