WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan announced Wednesday he will retire rather than seek another term in Congress as the steady if reluctant wingman for President Donald Trump, sending ripples through a Washington already on edge and spreading new uncertainty through a party bracing for a rough election year.
The Wisconsin Republican cast the decision to end his 20-year career as a personal one, saying he did not want his children growing up with a “weekend dad.” Claiming he’s accomplished “a heckuva lot,” he said the party can point to strong gains as lawmakers campaign ahead of November elections. A self-styled budget expert, Ryan had made tax cuts a centerpiece of his legislative agenda, and a personal cause, and Congress delivered on that late last year.
“I have given this job everything I have,” he said. “We’re going to have a great record to run on.”
But Ryan’s impending departure also sets off a scramble among his lieutenants to take the helm. And it will fuel speculation that Ryan is eyeing a coming Democratic surge, fueled by opposition to Trump, that could wrest control of the House from Republicans’ grip. Several GOP veterans have announced plans to retire in recent months and another, Rep. Dennis Ross of Florida, followed Ryan on Wednesday.
After talking with Trump early Wednesday, Ryan, 48, first announced his plans at a closed-door meeting of House Republicans. Rep. Mark Walker of North Carolina said an emotional Ryan “choked up a few times trying to get through” his remarks to colleagues and received three standing ovations.
Moments later, Ryan told reporters that if he were to stay for one more term, his children — now all teens — would only know him as a weekend dad.
“I can’t let that happen,” he said.
Ryan, who has had a difficult relationship with Trump, thanked the president for giving him the chance to move the GOP ahead.
For many Republicans, Ryan has been “a steady force in contrast to the president’s more mercurial tone,” said Rep. Mark Sanford of South Carolina. “That’s needed.”