After weeks and months of rumors swirling throughout Washington, House Speaker Paul Ryan confirmed Wednesday he will not seek reelection and will retire from the House at the end of the current congressional term.
Coupled with the Wednesday’s announcement Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) will leave the House at the end of the term, Ryan’s departure brings the total number of GOP retirements in the House to 38.
In a Wednesday morning address to reporters, Paul cited prolonged absence for his family, accomplishments the GOP achieved over his two decades of service, his reluctance to accept the position as Speaker in 2015, and said:
“I’ve tried to bring as much Wisconsin to Washington as I can in that time. It’s been a wild ride, but it’s been a journey well worth taking to be able to do my part to strengthen the American idea. That pursuit is never-ending, much work remains, but I like to think I’ve done my little part in history to set us on a better course.”
Ryan had faced speculation he would be leaving Congress since media reports in December which detailed colleagues’ knowledge of his possible retirement.
Although Ryan insisted family concerns drove his decision to retire, what likely contributed to his determination to leave his seat are accomplishing a long-desired aim of achieving tax reform, feuds with President Trump and Congress becoming more an inhospitable place.
Similarly, Ryan is facing his strongest election challenger in his career: Ironworker and social media maven Randy Bryce who has raised $4.75 million to-date in mostly small donations.
Republican primary challengers were rumored to include Reince Priebus, which the former RNC chairman has since shot down. 2016 House candidate Paul Nehlen, often described as an alt-right white nationalist, is now considered the front-runner.
Despite a strong electoral history in Wisconsin’s First Congressional District, Ryan’s retirement comes in a moment in which he himself faced an uphill battle to win reelection and polls which give the Democrats an eight-point advantage in generic polls ahead of the 2018 mid-term elections.
Shortly after announcing his departure from Congress, district residents were asked to give their opinion on the outgoing House speaker and who they’d like to see represent them starting in 2019.
Acknowledging friction in their relationship, Ryan said in interviews with the media Wednesday his and the president’s interests aligned on many issues and common goals helped overcome personal value differences between the two men.
Ryan, however, generally favored cuts to entitlement programs, a tougher stance on Russia, and is opposed to the White House’s tariffs, which Ryan fears will stoke a trade war.
First elected in 1998, Ryan served 10 terms in the House and became speaker in 2015 following the resignation of Ohio’s John Boehner. Ryan played a central role in the passage of historic tax reform in 2017 and was the vice-presidential candidate under 2012 GOP nominee, Mitt Romney.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (La.) are considered the front-runners to succeed Ryan should Republicans hold their majority after the mid-term elections.
“Everyone will start jockeying for position immediately,” Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) said, referring to the impending power struggle. “They won’t wait for nine months.”
Editor’s note: This article has been updated.
[Reuters] [Roll Call] [Vox] [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel] [The Daily Beast] [Ballotpedia] [Politico] [Photo courtesy Yes I’m Right]