House Speaker Paul Ryan won’t seek re-election in November, according to people familiar with his plans, dealing a blow to congressional Republicans already facing a possible Democratic takeover of the House in the November elections and setting off a GOP leadership battle.
Ryan’s retirement had been the subject of rumors in the halls of Congress for months and the Wisconsin Republican has given only vague answers when he was asked about his plans. After passage of Ryan’s long-sought tax overhaul late last year, the speaker clashed with President Donald Trump over his planned tariffs.
His departure sets up a battle for control of the chamber. Among likely contenders are Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, and North Carolina’s Mark Meadows, a leading voice of the conservative Freedom Caucus.
It comes as recent special elections that reaped Democrats an Alabama Senate seat and a House seat in Pennsylvania hint at a building anti-GOP wave that may overturn the party’s majority in Congress.
Ryan’s plans were reported earlier by Axios. He took the speaker’s post in late 2015 after fellow Republican John Boehner stepped aside and his heir apparent — McCarthy — abruptly dropped out of the race to replace him.
The Wisconsin native has struggled to manage the often difficult and thankless task of wrangling the fractious Republican conference. A former chairman of the House Budget Committee, Ryan — who was first elected to Congress in 1998, at the age of 28 — has spent much of his career focused on fiscal policy. He’s focused particularly on pressing the need to rein in entitlement growth.
If for no other reason, Ryan will be missed by his colleagues for his fundraising prowess. His time as a vice presidential candidate in 2012 helped him build relationships with a national network of donors and his policy positions were in sync with the sort of establishment Republicans who attend fundraisers.
During the first quarter of 2018, his joint fundraising committee — Team Ryan — pulled in $11.1 million. So far in the 2017-18 election cycle, he’s raised more than $54 million, a total Ryan’s political aides have called an unprecedented sum for a speaker’s political organization. More than $40 million of the total Ryan has raised has been transferred to the National Republican Congressional Committee, the main campaign operation for House Republicans.
So far this election season, Ryan has traveled to more than 30 states and more than 70 cities to raise money. He’s likely to maintain a robust fundraising schedule the rest of this election year, although with his planned exit from power he’s not likely to be as hot a ticket on the fundraising circuit.
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