WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan announced Wednesday that he will not run for re-election, setting off a scramble among his lieutenants to lead the House Republican caucus and signaling a tough battle for his party in the midterm elections.
Ryan, 48, a Wisconsin Republican who has served as speaker for nearly 2 1⁄2 years, said he will finish out the rest of his term and retire in January. He did not say what he planned to do next, but he told an interviewer he has no plans to run for public office again.
“I have accomplished much of what I came here to do, and my kids aren’t getting any younger,” Ryan said, saying he wants more time with his family. “And if I stay, they’re only going to know me as a weekend dad. And that’s just something I consciously can’t do.”
Ryan called passage of the massive tax-cut package last year and the big boost in funding to rebuild the military his two biggest accomplishments — and said his biggest regret was that the Senate did not pass the House-approved entitlement reform to reign in government spending.
Since the tax bill passed, Ryan has been engulfed in rumors that he would leave his post and the House, ending what many lawmakers say has been a difficult job under unpredictable President Donald Trump.
But Ryan denied he had been frustrated with Trump, saying he was “grateful” that Trump’s election to president gave the Republicans in Congress the “opportunity to do big things.”
First elected to the House in 1998, Ryan called the past 20 years in office “a wild ride” but “a journey well worth taking.
He has served as chairman of the powerful tax-writing Ways and Means Committee and the Budget Committee. Ryan ran as the running mate of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012, who lost to President Barack Obama.
Ryan is widely believed to harbor ambitions to become president. But on CNN, he said, “I’m not going to run for president. Right now the last thing I’m thinking about is running for something.”
Ryan also is pulling out after contemplating the prospect of leading his party in the minority or with a slim majority after the November elections, a possibility fueled by the retirements of about 40 Republicans when Democrats need a net gain of 24 to win the House majority.
But Ryan downplayed the political implications and possible impact of his retirement.
“I gave it some consideration,” he said. “I really don’t think a person’s race for Congress is going to hinge on whether Paul Ryan’s speaker or not. So I really don’t think it affects it.”
Ryan said the process to replace him will come after the November election, and said he had “great confidence” in his leadership team of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), who are eyeing the top job.
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) said he believed Ryan’s decision to leave to be with his family, and Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) said, “I deeply respect and admire his decision to retire at this point in his life.”
Trump tweeted, “Speaker Paul Ryan is a truly good man, and while he will not be seeking re-election, he will leave a legacy of achievement that nobody can question. We are with you Paul!”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called Ryan “a true leader,” and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) also praised Ryan as “a good man who is always true to his word.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said, “Despite our differences, I commend his steadfast commitment to our country. During his final months, Democrats are hopeful that he joins us to work constructively to advance better futures for all Americans.”