Report: Paul Ryan considering retirement in 2018

December 15, 2017 GMT

House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday he’s not leaving Congress anytime soon, trying to squelch rumors that he will walk away in triumph after the Republicans’ treasured tax bill is approved.

Politico and The Huffington Post published reports speculating that Ryan would make this two-year Congress his last or even resign after lawmakers approve the $1.5 trillion tax bill, which is expected next week. Ryan took the job hesitantly in 2015 after former Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, abruptly stepped aside under pressure from party conservatives, who remain a formidable and rebellious force.

Ryan has informed some of his closest friends and family that he plans to step down as House speaker after the 2018 midterm elections, according to a report in Politico.


But Ryan said Thursday he has no plans to step down, and an aide called the story “pure speculation.”

“As the speaker himself said today, he’s not going anywhere any time soon,” the aide said.

Gov. Scott Walker on Thursday tweeted that he talked to Ryan and “he’s not going anywhere.”

Dozens of sources

The Politico report says the Janesville Republican, who has represented Wisconsin’s 1st District in Congress since 1999 and has served as speaker since 2015, “has made it known to some of his closest confidants that this will be his final term as speaker.”

“In recent interviews with three dozen people who know the speaker — fellow lawmakers, congressional and administration aides, conservative intellectuals and Republican lobbyists — not a single person believed Ryan will stay in Congress past 2018,” the story said.

“More recently, over closely held conversations with his kitchen cabinet, Ryan’s preference has become clear: He would like to serve through Election Day 2018 and retire ahead of the next Congress,” according to Politico.

According to Politico, his motivations for stepping down are twofold: frustration with the job, which he likened to “running a daycare center,” and a desire to spend time with his three children before they grow up and leave the nest.

Speculation around how much longer Ryan would remain speaker has been building in recent weeks in Washington, with fellow lawmakers quietly speculating that the time for him to leave was approaching sooner rather than later, according to a different report in the Huffington Post posted Wednesday night.

When asked by a reporter Thursday morning whether he would be quitting, Ryan said, “No. I’m not, no.”

Trump weighs in

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said President Donald Trump called Ryan and the president made it clear he wouldn’t be happy if Ryan quit Congress.


“The Speaker assured the president that those were not accurate reports and that they look forward to working together for a long time to come,” Sanders said.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who would be an obvious candidate to take the top GOP job if Ryan leaves, dismissed the rumors as well.

Ryan’s chief political fundraiser, Spencer Zwick, said: “He is running for re-election. We will keep the House majority, and he will continue to be the speaker of the House. He is fully committed to continuing to lead this important agenda.”

Reluctant at first

Ryan, his party’s 2012 vice presidential candidate, was initially reluctant to take the speaker’s post. It calls for long hours meeting with colleagues to line up votes or address other problems, and frequent fundraising trips for the party. Now 47, Ryan has three young children and initially said he was uninterested in being speaker, calling it a job for empty-nesters.

Ryan pushed a repeal of President Barack Obama’s health care law through the House in May after encountering resistance from both ends of the GOP’s political spectrum, only to see the effort run aground in the GOP-led Senate. Though Congress seems on the verge of passing the tax bill — the GOP’s first major legislative accomplishment this year — he faces negotiations with Democrats over spending and immigration likely to produce compromises that conservatives will angrily oppose.

At the news conference Thursday, Ryan gave reporters an extensive preview of next year’s GOP agenda, promising action on restraining the growth of government benefit programs.

Ryan’s hold on the speakership could end in 2019 whether he wants to keep the job or not.

Democrats will need to gain 24 seats in next November’s midterm elections to capture House control. Trump’s staggering unpopularity and recent Democratic victories have raised that party’s hopes of grabbing a House majority.

Tuesday’s Senate election in Alabama, in which Democrat Doug Jones scored an upset, would bring the GOP’s margin of control in that chamber to 51-49, making any action on cutting the budget a long shot.

Ryan has easily won re-election nine times since first winning the 1st District seat in 1998, averaging a 28-percentage-point margin of victory every two years.

State Journal reporters Nick Heynen and Mark Sommerhauser and The Associated Press contributed to this report.