On Wednesday, April 11, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) announced that he would not seek re-election to Congress this fall. Speaker Ryan intends to continue in his current role until next January.
Speaker Ryan has represented Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District since 1999. For most of his career, he has been known as a fiscally conservative advocate for tax reform and reform of programs like Medicare and Social Security. In 2012, then-Rep. Ryan gained national exposure when he was tapped as the running mate of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
In the fall of 2015, House Speaker John Boehner announced that he would step down from his position and retire from Congress. Speaker Boehner had trouble gaining sufficient votes within the fractious Republican Conference to pass legislation; the deeply conservative Freedom Caucus typically balked at spending measures that it perceived as excessive, while conservative legislation ran the risk of losing the support of the centrist Tuesday Morning Group. Furthermore, rank-and-file legislators complained that their leaders did not pay enough attention to their concerns and used a rushed and secretive approach to passing bills. When the House Republican Conference—true to its reputation—had difficulty selecting a new Speaker, Republicans implored Ryan to run for the position. At the time, it was widely believed that no other House Republican would be palatable to the various factions represented in the House. Despite his initial reluctance, Ryan eventually acquiesced, and he was chosen as the 54th Speaker of the House on October 29, 2015.
After two-and-one-half years, many of the challenges and concerns that existed during Speaker Boehner’s tenure continue to rear their heads under Speaker Ryan. One example is the Speaker’s approach to health care reform in 2017, which was heavily criticized for excluding rank-and-file legislators. However, the House did manage to pass the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act late last year, and the final tax legislation was vastly improved over the initial drafts of the bill. The fact of the matter is this: The Republican majority in the House is deeply divided between members who are largely comfortable with the status quo and members who believe that the status quo is unacceptable and unsustainable. These divisions are not likely to fade away, whether the Speaker of the House is John Boehner, Paul Ryan, or someone else. These divisions make it difficult to agree upon and advance a governing agenda.
While Speaker Ryan’s desire to exit his position is not surprising, the timing of his announcement is. Albany Update expected Speaker Ryan to run for re-election and say nothing about his future until after the fall elections. Announcing his departure now may make it more challenging for the Speaker (now a lame duck) to pass legislation and to raise money for Republican candidates during the rest of this year. Furthermore, the announcement could be construed as a lack of confidence in the Republican Party’s prospects of maintaining its majority in the House.
New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms thanks House Speaker Paul Ryan for his years of service in Congress. While we have had a few differences with Speaker Ryan over the years, we appreciate his strong pro-life stance and his efforts to maintain civility and decency within the halls of government.