US House Speaker Paul Ryan will not seek re-election as Republicans worry about midterm elections
Ryan’s departure injects another layer of uncertainty for Republicans as they face worries over losing their majority in the fall
Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan will not run for re-election, his office announced Wednesday, injecting another layer of uncertainty as Republicans face worries over losing their congressional majority in the fall.
Ryan’s plans have been the source of much speculation and will set off a scramble among his lieutenants to take the helm.
A self-styled budget guru, Ryan, 48, had made tax cuts a centrepiece of his legislative agenda, and Congress delivered on that late last year. He announced his plans at a closed-door meeting of House Republicans Wednesday morning, according to those present.
His tone was sombre, and he read directly from prepared remarks.
“After nearly 20 years in the House, the speaker is proud of all that has been accomplished and is ready to devote more of his time to being a husband and a father,” Ryan adviser Brendan Buck said in a statement.
“While he did not seek the position, he told his colleagues that serving as speaker has been the professional honour of his life, and he thanked them for the trust they placed in him.”
Ryan called extended family and a few close friends on Tuesday night and alerted a few staff.
On Wednesday morning, he called the president and the vice-president and informed the rest of his staff before going to the conference meeting, officials said.
US President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter on Wednesday: “Speaker Paul Ryan is a truly good man, and while he will not be seeking re-election, he will leave a legacy of achievement that nobody can question. We are with you Paul!’”
Ryan will serve out his term and retire in January, Buck said.
Speaker Paul Ryan is a truly good man, and while he will not be seeking re-election, he will leave a legacy of achievement that nobody can question. We are with you Paul!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 11, 2018
Ryan, a Republican from Janesville, Wisconsin, was first elected to Congress in 1998. Along with Representatives Eric Cantor and Kevin McCarthy, he branded himself a rising “young gun” in an ageing party.
In 2012, he became the Republican Party’s nominee for vice-president, joining Mitt Romney on the ticket that lost to Barack Obama and Joe Biden.
Ryan was pulled into the House leadership job by the abrupt retirement of House Speaker John Boehner in 2015.
Boehner had struggled to wrangle the chamber’s restless conservative wing and failed to seal the big-picture “grand bargain” deals on fiscal policy that he had sought.
Ryan had more credibility with the hardliners in the House, but had no more success in brokering the fundamental reform of entitlement spending that he sought.
He ultimately had to wrestle with another unexpected challenge: Donald Trump, a president with little of Ryan’s interest in policy detail or ideological purity.
The two have not had a close working relationship.
House Majority Leader McCarthy, a California Republican known to be closer to Trump, is expected to seek the speaker post. He is likely to compete with House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana for the job. Both men spoke at the closed-door meeting Wednesday, delivering tributes to Ryan.
In Wisconsin, the most likely Republican candidate for Ryan’s seat is state Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, multiple Republicans in the state said. Vos did not immediately return telephone or text messages.
Another Republican mentioned as a potential candidate is a long-time Ryan family friend and backer Bryan Steil, a lawyer and member of the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents. Steil did not immediately return an email seeking comment.
Ryan’s announcement continues a spate of retirements from Republican lawmakers going into the midterm elections.
Also on Wednesday, Republican Rep. Dennis Ross of Florida said he would not seek re-election to a fifth term representing what is considered a strong Republican district.
Rep. Steve Stivers, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said he was confident Republicans would retain Ross’s seat, “and we will do what it takes to make that happen”.