House Speaker Paul Ryan announced Wednesday he will not run for reelection again and would leave the leadership job he never wanted in the first place.
“You all know that I did not seek this job, I took it reluctantly but I have given this job everything that I have,” he said. “I have no regrets whatsoever for having accepted this responsibility…the job provides incredible opportunities but the truth is, it is easy for it to take over everything in your life.”
Ryan will serve out his full term ending in January 2019, but said his reason for leaving the House had to do with his desire to spend more time with his three children, now all teenagers, who have grown up only knowing their father as a legislator.
“What I realize is if I'm here for one more term, my kids will only have ever known me as a weekend dad,” said Ryan, who lost his father as a teen. “I just can't let that happen. So I will be setting new priorities in my life but I will also be leaving incredibly proud of what we've accomplished.”
He added he intend to serve on as speaker, which will all but ensure a six-month leadership race among his deputies. It also gives Democrats a shot at picking up his seat in November. Upon Ryan’s announcement, the Cook Political Report moved his Wisconsin district from “Solid Republican” to “Leans Republican.”
Still, the 48-year-old Republican had increasingly struggled to square his brand of conservatism with the brash, mercurial directives that frequently came from the White House.
Axios first reported the news of Ryan’s impending retirement on Wednesday morning.
His coming departure sends an already spiraling Republican Party into a full-on tailspin ahead of the midterm elections. Ryan for his part said President Trump, the midterms and all the chaos therein played little role in his decision.
“If we do our jobs as we are, we are going to be fine as a majority,” Ryan said, almost convincingly.
But in fairness, as he stated several times during his press conference, he never wanted the job.
Ryan was thrust into the top Republican post after then-Speaker John Boehner pulled the ripcord following several years of trying to manage the increasingly unruly and combative GOP conference.
While Ryan’s ascension was largely cheered by the conference, they did not make it an easy ride. Ryan was mired with many of the same issues that plagued Boehner, made worse by an unpredictable frenemy in the White House.
Ryan twice thanked Trump for giving Republicans the opportunity to do “big things” but said he should not fire special counsel Robert Mueller.
Just last month, Ryan had an unusually public confrontation with Trump after the president first threatened international tariffs. A spokesman for Ryan said the speaker was “extremely worried” that such tariffs would set off a dangerous trade war and urged the president “to not advance with this plan.”
In response, Trump said: “We’re not backing down.”
Ryan came to the House nearly 20 ago, a young protege of conservative stalwart Rep. Jack Kemp, who he served as speechwriter early in his career. Ryan long spoke about entitlement reform and aspired to be the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, a post he held for only ten months before until he became speaker in 2015.
Still, Ryan said the GOP-led tax overhaul, passed last fall, had fulfilled a lifelong dream.
He was known as a policy leader in the House, which spurred former Massachusetts governor and current Senate candidate Mitt Romney to ask him to join the Republican ticket in 2012 as his vice president pick.
As Republicans in the House were already struggling to maintain a stronghold for the midterms, Ryan’s departure means Democrats could be one step closer to winning a majority.
It also could inspire another wave of retirements. At the time of Ryan’s announcement, 41 House Republicans announced they are either retiring or running for another office this year.
A little more than an hour after Ryan’s announcement, Florida Republican Dennis Ross announced he too would retire at the end of his term.