“If I am here for one more term, my kids will only ever have known me as a weekend Dad — I just can’t let that happen,” thus said the 48-year old House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis) as he announced Wednesday that he is no longer running for re-election this coming November. In his Press Conference, Ryan disclosed that his primary motivation was his consideration in spending more time with his family –particularly with the children who he said, he didn’t want them to remember him as a “weekend Dad”.
“And I have no regrets”, Ryan said, adding that, “You all know I did not seek this job, I took it reluctantly, but I have given this job everything I have” To political observers, however, Ryan’s announcement is seen as a move that could end the almost 20 years of his political career in the Congress at the time as the GOP wrestles a tough fight this year to keep control of the House.
Ryan has gained a reputation as a wonkish figure, since his ran as 2012 GOP presidential running mate nominee to Mitt Romney, with his focus on limited government and balanced budgets over the years, and by playing a central role in the push to “repeal-and-replace” the controversial 2010 ObamaCare law by passing numerous bills for its defunding and replacement. Unfortunately, the most significant effort to repeal the law fell short in the Senate last summer.
But it has also been reported that Ryan’s decision was motivated partly by President Trump, who has reportedly made the job frustrating for Ryan. Passing the Tax Reform Bill –of which Ryan played a key role last year, was an achievement that he said was an issue close to his heart, and which Ryan has dedicated his career to, and which somehow was a factor in his rocky relationship with President Trump. Ryan was seen to have condemned the more controversial moves of President Trump on a number of occasions during the campaign period. President Trump had slammed Congress last month over the $1.3 trillion spending bill, which Ryan played a key role in crafting, over its failure to include a fix for the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA) and funding for Trump’s border wall.
But in spite of this seemingly differences between them, Ryan and President Trump share some common cause: health care, tax reform, and increased funding for the military, among others, the latter being hailed as a “big win for the omnibus” by both of them. In fact, in his Press Conference Wednesday, Ryan considers his move on increasing funds for the military and working out for reforms in the Tax Code as two of his biggest accomplishments in Congress. Majority Leader Mitch McConnel (R-Ky) his counterpart in the Senate, said that Ryan’s legacy would be that of a “transformational conservative leader,” citing tax reform and securing increased funding for the military. And Ryan said that he sees these two achievements as “lasting victories that make this country more prosperous and more secure for decades to come.”
In an interview on Fox News’ “The Daily Briefing”, Ryan said that he and President Trump had developed a good relationship. In fact, “We’ve spent a great deal of time with each other — I’m having dinner with him tonight,” he told Dana Perino of Fox News. “We speak on the phone constantly so honestly, we’ve just developed a good friendship, developed a good rapport. He is the one who gave us with his victory the ability to all this work done, so I’m very excited about that.” Earlier that Wednesday as well, Trump had tweeted that Ryan leaves “a legacy of achievement that nobody can question.”
“The results have been beyond impressive. Capping off a remarkable twenty-year career in Congress, Paul’s speakership has yielded one signature accomplishment after another for his conference, his constituents in his beloved home state of Wisconsin, and the American people,” McConnell said in a statement. Ryan has been an “avid advocate for his point of view and for the people of his district,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif). She further stated that, “Despite our differences, I commend his steadfast commitment to our country. During his final months, Democrats are hopeful that he joins us to work constructively to advance better futures for all Americans.” Ryan believes that Congress has already achieved several accomplishments during his term of leadership as Speaker of the House since 2015, after he was first elected as Congressman almost 20 years ago –in 1998.
On the other hand, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) said that Ryan’s retirement was a sign of defeat for Republicans in November. In a statement, DCCC spokesman Tyler Law said: “Speaker Ryan sees what is coming in November, and is calling it quits rather than standing behind a House Republican agenda to increase healthcare costs for middle class families while slashing Social Security and Medicare to pay for his handouts to the richest and largest corporations,” adding that, “Unfortunately, for the many vulnerable House Republicans that Paul Ryan is abandoning, his historically unpopular and failed policies will hang over their reelections like a dark cloud.”
But, Ryan said on “The Daily Briefing” that he didn’t think his announcement would affect GOP performance in the midterms. While Ryan said that the midterms were not a factor in his thinking, one GOP insider believes that his move was a “tectonic” shift ahead of November. “This is going to make every Republican donor believe the House can’t be held,” the Republican said. Republicans in the House were already in a very tough spot for the midterms, with many endangered members and the good chance that Democrats could win the majority. “I don’t think anybody’s election is going to hinge on if Paul Ryan is Speaker of the House,” he said.
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), and GOP Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif), are both mentioned as possibilities in a move that also ignites the race to potentially succeed Ryan should Republicans hold the House in November. While Ryan was not believed to be endangered electorally, he is in a district that favors Republicans by five points in a swing state. Do the polls suggest the possibility that Democrats are likely to pick up the gavel? It seems that Ryan’s decision comes ahead of a tough midterm election cycle for House Republicans, who are expected to struggle to keep control of the chamber in the face of an enthused Democratic opposition.