“I like to think I’ve done my part,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, 48, said of his nearly two decades in Congress and his announcement to retire after this year. Wednesday, the Republican from Wisconsin, in what must be a shock to his fellow GOP colleagues, said he believed he had “set us on a better course.”
His stepping down, particularly the significant role he has played galvanizing his party and raising funds, is sure to have national ramifications, most immediately in special elections and the upcoming midterm in November.
Ryan, who has been in office since 1999 and speaker since 2015, said he wanted to spend more time with his family, and between the lines it might be interpreted as wanting to spend less time with the GOP cohort in Congress and the anticipated tidal wave of change in the House.
Among the questions that automatically arise: Does this announcement mean that Trump has won the fight for the heart of the GOP? And who will be his replacement?
As if to mollify any differences between him and Ryan, Trump tweeted: “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!”
Part of that legacy was recounted by former Speaker Democrat Nancy Pelosi, who said, “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.”
Long before Ryan made his retirement plans official, there was talk about his future replacement, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana were often cited as the two front-runners.
Given the political turbulence in Washington and across the nation in the wake of the Trump tsunami, taking the wheel and guiding the GOP in the coming months is not an enviable position. Most GOP members would rather set that issue aside and focus on how to hold on to the majority in the House and the Senate.