Speaker of the House Paul Ryan will not seek re-election this fall, leaving Republicans in panic mode as it quickly triggered another GOP desertion and is expected to bring more as his party scrambles to hold on to its majority.
Ryan says he is leaving at the end of 20 years in Congress. An hour later, Rep. Dennis Moss of Florida announced his retirement.
The Speaker’s retirement caught Republicans by surprise and came just after a donor retreat in Texas where participants felt confident he would remain in his Congressional seat and the Speakership.
He said he wants to spend more time with his children, noting that his daughter was 13 when he became speaker.
“The truth is, it is easy for it to take over everything in your life and you can’t just let that happen because there are other things in life that can be fleeting as well: Namely your time as a husband and father< Ryan said.
Some feel Ryan is getting out of Congress before Republicans lose control of the House and he does not want to keep fighting bombastic President Donald Trump and having to come up with new excuses for his behavior.
“We can all read between the lines,” said moderate Republican Rep. Charlie Dent from Pennsylvania. “This is not an easy administration to be dealing with.”
Ryan dismissed suggestions that he is leaving because he sees a bleak future.
“If we do our job, as we are, we are doing to be fine as a majority,” he claimed.
Ryan joins a growing list of more than 40 other House Republicans have announced they are leaving to retire or seek other offices.
Former Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi tempered her praise for Ryan.
“The Speaker has been an avid advocate for his point of view and the people of his district. Despite our differences, I commend his steadfast commitment to our country,” she said.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer urged Ryan to use his remaining time for work towards bipartisanship in the House. He added:
With his newfound political freedom, I hope the Speaker uses his remaining time in Congress to break free from the hard-right factions of his caucus that have kept Congress from getting real things done. If he’s willing to reach across the aisle, he’ll find Democrats willing and eager to work with him.
Ryan said he made the decision over a spring vacation to Austria during the congressional recess. As Speaker he found himself sandwiched between the GOP hard right and mainstream Republicans along with the controversial and ever-changing president who has turned to using tariffs to spark a trade war that the Speaker opposes and feels is a violation of the free market.
He told his staff early this morning that he could not “in good conscience” commit to serving a another two years in Congress.
The Speaker’s retirement leaves some Republicans scrambling to situate themselves as a potential speaker if Republicans manage to hold onto their tenuous majority. Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise is considered and early front-runner. Scalise was seriously insured by the gunman who opened fire on practice for the Congressional baseball game in June 2017 and returned to Congress in September to applause and resume his duties as Majority Whip.
“This is the nightmare scenario,” former Virginia Republican Representative Thomas Davis told The New York Times. “Everybody figured he’s just hang in there till after the election.”
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