WASHINGTON – House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) announced Wednesday that he will leave Congress when his term expires in January.
“Today I am announcing that this year will be my last one as a member of the House,” Ryan said at a news conference. “To be clear, I am not resigning. I intended to serve my full term – as I was elected to do. But I will be retiring in January, leaving this majority in good hands with what I believe is a very bright future.”
The announcement was preceded earlier Wednesday by an Axios report that said Ryan recently told members of his staff that he had decided not to seek re-election. The report was followed by a statement from Ryan’s communications director confirming the Speaker would not seek re-election.
Many pundits had speculated that Ryan might contemplate retirement after having ushered the most comprehensive tax reform legislation since the Reagan administration through Congress. Ryan is considered a protege of his former boss and mentor the late-Congressman Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.). Kemp championed supply-side economics and was instrumental in the passage of the 1986 tax reform bill.
Ryan told reporters that tax reform and securing funds to rebuild the military are the “two biggest achievements” of his career.
Ryan, 48, has served in Congress since 1999. He reluctantly assumed the speakership in Sep. 2015 following the resignation of Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio). In 2012, Ryan was the Republican nominee for Vice President.
Since taking the Speaker’s gavel Ryan has struggled to unite different factions of the Republican party. Ryan also has had to navigate a sometimes contentious and often complicated relationship with President Donald Trump.
At weekly news conferences, the Speaker often dodges questions related to the president’s tweets.
Ryan said his decision to retire was not motivated by political factors. Ryan said he achieved much of what he had hoped to on the legislative front and explained that he wanted to spend more time with his family. Ryan said he did not want his children to come to regard him as a “weekend dad.”
The term refers to Ryan’s routine weekend visits to his home in Janesville, Wis., which he told GOP leaders in 2015 was a precondition for accepting the speakership. Ryan frequently notes that he does not have a residence in Washington, D.C. and that he sleeps in his office during the week.
Ryan told reporters he does not believe his departure will have any effect on GOP mid-term election prospects and that he is confident Republicans will maintain control of the House.
When asked about the contest for the speakership that likely will pit House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) against House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), Ryan said: “We’re getting way ahead of ourselves.”
President Donald Trump and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle praised Ryan for his service.
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
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in floor remarks said Ryan is a “humble servant and a happy warrior.” McConnell went on to explain that he and Ryan have more goals to accomplish before the expiration of the speaker’s term.
“Speaker Ryan is a good man who is always true to his word. Even though we disagreed on most issues, in the areas where we could work together I always found him to be smart, thoughtful, and straightforward,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. “With his newfound political freedom, I hope the Speaker uses his remaining time in Congress to break free from the hard-right factions of his caucus that have kept Congress from getting real things done. If he’s willing to reach across the aisle, he’ll find Democrats willing and eager to work with him.”
“The Speaker has been an avid advocate for his point of view and for the people of his district,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement. “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.”