According to a long-form article by Politico, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Paul Ryan is allegedly planning to retire at the end of the 115th Congress, in January of 2019. This comes as the Republican-controlled Congress is finalizing a major tax reform bill that would cut both the corporate rate and the individual rate significantly, an achievement that would fulfill a long-time dream of Speaker Ryan.
As an individual who has prided himself on making fiscal issues the focus of his career, such a massive tax cut is something that he has promoted for years. Ryan had previously served as the Chairman of the House Budget Committee for four years from 2011 to 2015, and then served for less than a year as Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. In 2013, working with Democratic Washington Senator Patty Murray, Ryan crafted the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, which was the first budget act to pass through a divided Congress since 1986.
Ryan, who has served from Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District since 1999, rose to national prominence as the running mate of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012. Despite their ticket’s loss that year, Ryan was resoundingly reelected, and went on to become one of the few Republican leaders who rose from the ashes of that year’s devastating loss. This national recognition, combined with his youth and ability to please both the moderate establishment and most of the conservative base, made him the clear frontrunner for Speaker of the House when John Boehner retired in 2015. Even then, he had to be pressured into running for the position after declining numerous times. Upon winning the Speakership at the age of 45, he became the youngest Speaker of the House in 140 years.
As Speaker, he played a crucial role in both the final years of the Obama presidency and the first year of the Trump presidency. Upon his election, part of his agreement with the Freedom Caucus - the group that forced Boehner to quit under the threat of being directly challenged - was that no immigration reform would be taken up by the Republican-controlled House for the remainder of Obama’s second term. In December of 2015, Ryan spearheaded the effort to pass the Every Student Succeeds Act, which repealed the unpopular No Child Left Behind Act and severely reduced the power of government in education.
In the first year of Trump’s tenure, while the U.S. Senate has been infamous for failing to pass major legislative achievements such as Obamacare repeal, the House under Ryan’s leadership has passed many major bills that satisfy both the Republican agenda and the Trump agenda in particular. Bills that have passed on Ryan’s watch include: the hardline immigration bills “Kate’s Law” and the “No Sanctuary for Criminals Act;” the “Financial CHOICE Act” that would repeal the Obama-era Wall Street regulations known as Dodd-Frank; funding for Trump’s border wall; a concealed carry reciprocity bill that would allow Americans to carry firearms across state lines; and - most prominently - the Obamacare repeal bill known as the “American Health Care Act,” which narrowly passed in the House but ultimately died in the Senate.
According to the report, Ryan has told his family and close friends in private that, if the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passes and is signed into law by President Trump, then he will not run for reelection in 2018. This promise to retire after fulfilling a lifelong dream echoes the circumstances of his predecessor’s exit; Boehner recounted that he was determined to retire after he successfully achieved his own long-time dream: Bringing the Pope to speak to a joint session of Congress for the first time in American history.
At only 47 years old, Ryan still has young children who are either in their teens or about to enter their teens, and he has made it clear for much of his career that he intends to spend time with them as they grow up; something he was not able to experience due to the death of his father at a young age.
Of course, with this revelation comes the inevitable speculation as to who is most likely to succeed Ryan. Most would automatically turn to the other top Republicans - House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA-23) and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (LA-01). However, while McCarthy had previously been the frontrunner to succeed Boehner in 2015, he suddenly dropped out the day before the scheduled election; the top reasons were unproven allegations of an affair between McCarthy and another member of Congress, as well as McCarthy angering the base by insulting the House Select Committee on Benghazi. Scalise, the next in line, turned down the chance and endorsed Ryan.
Many others who had been prominent potential candidates in 2015 are no longer in the mix. Mike Pompeo and Ryan Zinke, who expressed interest back in 2015, have both since been appointed to positions in the Trump Cabinet. Former House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, who ran in 2015 to challenge McCarthy before dropping out to make way for Ryan, resigned earlier this year to become a Fox News contributor. Jeb Hensarling (TX-05), long considered a senior member of the Republican Caucus through his leadership on the House Committee on Financial Services, announced he will not run for reelection in 2018 either. Marsha Blackburn (TN-07) declined the chance to run in 2015, and is now running to succeed Bob Corker in the U.S. Senate in 2018, and is widely considered the frontrunner for both the nomination and the general election.
Some of the remaining likely candidates include: former Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (CA-49), who is facing a tough reelection battle in 2018; current Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy (SC-04), who is overwhelmingly popular with the base but previously declined to run in 2015; and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05), Chair of the House Republican Conference and the highest-ranking Republican woman in the House.