Paul Ryan Not Running For Re-Election

Paul Ryan won't be running for re-election this year, opening up both a Congressional seat and a leadership spot.

In news that qualifies as both explosive and not entirely surprising, it’s being reported that Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who has been a Member of Congress since first being elected in 1998 and has served as Speaker of the House since late October 2015, will not run for re-election in November, opening up a leadership fight in the House GOP Caucus and making it far less likely that Republicans will be able to keep control of the House of Representatives after November:

WASHINGTON — Speaker Paul D. Ryan told House Republican colleagues on Wednesday that he will not seek re-election in November, ending a brief stint atop the House and signaling the peril that the Republican majority faces in the midterm elections.

Mr. Ryan told the House Republican Conference that he will serve until the end of this Congress in January, which will mark 20 years in Congress. But his retirement announcement is sure to kick off a succession battle for the leadership of the House Republican Conference, likely between the House majority leader, Kevin McCarthy of California, and the House majority whip, Steve Scalise of Louisiana.

It could also trigger another wave of retirements among Republicans not eager to face angry voters in the fall and taking their cue from Mr. Ryan.

Mr. Ryan’s intentions were first reported by Axios.

Mr. Ryan’s decision to quit caught many in the party by surprise. He had just hosted a donor retreat last week in Texas and most officials believed he would not leave until after November.

Explaining his decision to his Republican colleagues Wednesday morning at a meeting in the Capitol, a subdued Mr. Ryan said he wanted to spend more time with his children, who live in the same town where the speaker grew up.

He pledged that he would help fellow Republicans extensively in the 2018 campaign and said he would continue raising money at a powerful pace, according to two lawmakers in the room. Mr. Ryan has become the party’s most important fund-raiser in the House and Republicans have been counting on him to help them collect and spend tens of millions of dollars defending their majority this fall.

He pointed to the recently enacted overhaul of the tax code and increased military spending as his signal accomplishments.

Growing emotional at points, Mr. Ryan said family considerations weighed heavily on his retirement, explaining that his daughter was 13 when he became speaker and he did not want to be a remote figure in her teenage years.

Mr. Ryan has been publicly noncommittal for months about running for re-election, repeating a formulation that he was not going anywhere any time soon. At the retreat in Austin, Tex., Mr. Ryan was opaque about his plans for 2018, saying that he and his wife, Janna, would confer in the coming weeks to make a decision, according to two people who attended the gathering.

But some in the audience found that unconvincing, and some party strategists indicated that his refusal to commit to running again was offering an excuse to donors to withhold from giving to House campaign efforts.

Back in his Southeastern Wisconsin district, Mr. Ryan was facing a spirited challenge from two Democrats, Randy Bryce, better known by his Twitter handle, “Iron Stache,” and a schoolteacher, Cathy Myers. On his right flank, an avowed anti-Semite, Paul Nehlen, was making another run at the Republican nomination — and earning a national following among white supremacists.

The news was first broken early this morning by Axios, and Jonathan Swan appeared on Morning Joe shortly after the story went up to share details on what he had learned from his sources. The reports were quickly confirmed by The New York TimesThe Washington PostPoliticoas well as by Jake Tapper and CNN’s reporting team, and Jake Sherman. On some level, of course, this news doesn’t come entirely as a surprise. There were reports in the wake of the 2012 Presidential election, for example, that Ryan, who of course was Mitt Romney’s running mate, would step away from Congress but he ended up staying on after being named the Chairman of the Ways & Means Committee, which has primary jurisdiction over tax legislation. Ryan had long been a champion of tax reform but had largely been unsuccessful in putting together a package that could make it through Congress until he became Speaker and the GOP had managed to elect a Republican to Congress. When that goal was largely achieved in December, there were reports that Ryan was already looking at the end of his Congressional career so that he could return to Wisconsin in time to be with his family while his children were still young. With today’s news making that official, that makes it official that we will have a new Speaker of the House regardless of who has control in the wake of the 2018 elections.

It’s been widely noted, of course, that Ryan never really wanted to be Speaker of the House and would have preferred to stay in his Committee Chairmanship had it not been for the fact that John Boehner’s out of the blue decision to retire from Congress in 2015 and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s abrupt decision to take himself out of contention after making the mistake of telling the truth about the real objective of the House committee investigating the attack on the diplomatic outpost in Benghazi. Even then, Ryan was a reluctant candidate and ended up only taking on the role after his conditions were met and repeated lobbying from Boehner himself  due to the fact that, without Ryan, it was unclear who could be elected in his place and what condition the GOP Caucus in the House would be after a protracted battle for the top slot in leadership. Since taking on the role, though, Ryan has found, like Boehner did, that the Republican caucus in the House of Representatives is ungovernable regardless of who is in charge, largely because the Republican Caucus is schizophrenic and more concerned with ideological warfare than in actually accomplishing anything. Add into this the fact that there is a significant segment of the GOP Caucus that refuses to believe in compromise of any kind, and it’s almost hard to understand why anyone would want to be the leader of House Republicans.

As for the future, it seems apparent at this point that the most likely candidates to lead the Republican caucus are Kevin McCarthy, who stayed in his position as House Majority Leader after declining to run for Speaker, and Steve Scalise, who serves as House Majority Whip and was among the most seriously injured victims of the of the shooting at a baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia. It’s hard to tell which one of them has the upper hand at this point, and that is likely to depend largely on whether the GOP remains in control of the House after November or slips into minority status. If it’s the second, then it’s likely that the leadership team remains largely intact with McCarthy becoming Minority Leader and Scalise staying on as Minority Whip. If the GOP holds on to the majority, then we’re likely to see a pointed battle between Scalise and McCarthy unless the two of them are able to come to an agreement that allows one of them to take the top slot.

The biggest consequence of Ryan’s announcement, of course, is the fact that it creates yet another open seat for a House GOP Caucus that is already dealing with a record number of retirements heading into midterms that are likely to be politically difficult. Even if Democrats aren’t able to win enough seats to take control of the House, they will most likely cut significantly into the current Republican majority and that would make governing even more difficult for whoever takes over from Ryan than it was already going to be. In that sense, it may be better for the GOP to lose control of the House to a thin Democratic majority, which seems to be the most likely outcome, than to retain control of the House by a narrow margin that makes putting together the 218 votes needed to pass legislation that has any serious chance of passing in the Senate regardless of which party controls that body next to impossible.

As for Ryan himself, many will count this as another Republican getting out while the getting is good. In his press comments today, though, Ryan said that his main motivation was the desire to be able to spend time with his wife and family more than he has been able to do in the past several years. As he noted in his speech, Ryan’s own father died when he was 16, the age that his eldest child is right now, and his second child is already 13. At several points in the past, he’s said he wants to be more than just a weekend father, and I take him at his word. At this point, Ryan has been in Congress twenty years, and it’s easy to see why he might believe it’s time for him to move on for now. He’s young enough at this point that he could still have a political future, perhaps by running for Governor of Wisconsin if Scott Walker, who is up for re-election this year, isn’t on the ballot in 2022, and one could easily see him being a potential Republican candidate for President in the future. For now, though, it makes perfect sense that he’s stepping down at the end of the year, and one can hardly blame him for wanting to call it quits.

FILED UNDER: 2018 Election, Congress, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Argon says:

    Doing it to optimize the Moola!

  2. PJ says:

    Mission Accomplished.
    Why stay around for the negative impact from the massive tax cuts?

  3. gVOR08 says:

    Ryan said that his main motivation was the desire to be able to spend time with his wife and family more than he has been able to do in the past several years.

    Ah, the old “spend more time with my family” story. That and he can see the handwriting on the wall, a blue wave and a bill of impeachment.

  4. Hal_10000 says:

    He never wanted to be speaker. And with entitlement reform effectively dead, he has no real issue to push. I wouldn’t want to be in between the House GOP and the Orangutan either.

    Let’s just hope the GOP finds someone other than Nehlen to run.

  5. Kathy says:

    If he gets elected president later on, figure 2024 or 2028, he may have a chance to deal with the deficits he created.

  6. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    He was facing a really tough race, and is taking a lot of heat at home for licking Dennison’s a-hole.
    Another small Gov’t Republican who has spent decades sucking on the Government teet…starting with SS benefits he got, before deciding he wanted to take SS away from everyone else.
    Anyone over 20 that takes Ayn Rand seriously cannot be taken seriously.
    The guy has never had a real job…other than McDonalds.
    I say good f’ing riddance. The Republic will be better off.

  7. Tony W says:

    The race for minority leader is on!

    Lordy…..let this be so….

  8. Jax says:

    @Kathy: That would be downright karmic, if he had to deal with his own mess.

  9. michael reynolds says:

    All things Ryan must be discounted by about 60%. He’s 60% less intelligent than his reputation. He’s 60% less honest, 60% less forceful, 60% less honest. He’s a little man, a weak, amoral, hypocritical mediocrity whose signature accomplishment will be trillion dollar deficits stretching off to the horizon. Just the opposite of his intended goal. Now the toad has the balls to claim victory and ride off into the sunset? A legend in his own mind who did nothing but harm this country. Good riddance.

  10. Kathy says:


    Too bad as a Christian the irony will be lost on him 🙂

  11. @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    Ryan most likely would have easily been re-elected had he chosen to run.

  12. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    Win…probably…I’m not so sure about easily.
    Ironworker Randy Bryce is only down by 6 points…and 79% of likely voters say they don’t know enough about him to say whether they viewed him favorably or unfavorably.

  13. @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    At this point I can pretty much guarantee you that Bryce will not be the next Congressperson from the First District of Wisconsin. Ryan getting out means more prominent Democrats, and Republicans, are likely to throw their hats in the ring. And they’re going to have a lot more money than Bryce will.

  14. MarkedMan says:

    Just as Trump is a factory worker’s idea of a businessman, and Gingrich is a stupid person’s idea of a genius, Paul Ryan is a, well, a Republican’s idea of a policy wonk. For years he was mouthing his nonsense year after year after year that the Republicans were ready to repeal Obamacare and replace it with his super-di-duper plan that would cover more people with better benefits for a fraction of the cost. Once he was in a position to enact this plan, of course it turned out to be pure fairy dust, although it was a shock to me at just how many of his Republican colleagues were so stupid as to actually believe that such a plan existed. These were the idiots that actually met with voters during the whole repeal/replace fiasco to “explain the Republican plan” only to have their asses handed to them by every constituent with an IQ higher than 95. I often wondered if Ryan somehow believed his own nonsense. On the one hand, IQ > 95. On the other hand, well into adulthood he still seems to think Ayn Rand’s adolescent fiction is a blueprint for how to run our country.

    Bottom line question: Is he a delusional chump like Brownback who swallows the nonsense the billionaire hobbyists serve with their expensive bourbon and slaps on the back? Or did he think he could actually take health care away from 25M people and everyone would cheer him?

  15. SKI says:
  16. An Interested Party says:

    The rats are rapidly getting off the sinking S.S. Trump…anyone want to place a bet on the total number of Republicans who won’t be running for reelection when November rolls around…

  17. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    Well, yeah…this changes everything. But I liked the Bryce/Ryan race.

  18. teve tory says:

    @An Interested Party: the current number’s already pretty big, isn’t it?

  19. gVOR says:

    Dr. Krugman, who’s made a hobby of despising Paul Ryan, rightfully, tweets that Ryan has failed at his goals, both pretended (deficit reduction) and real (privatizing Medicare).

    And meanwhile, as Speaker, his main achievement, if you can call it that, has been as enabler of corruption and contempt for rule of law. It’s unclear whether the end game will be Democratic takeover of the House or autocracy, American style. But either way, what a legacy

    In case of a Dem takeover, hopefully Ryan will go down in history as a footnote about a brief failed tax cut. In case of autarchy Ryan will be back.

  20. Electroman says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Agreed. He’s not doing this because he’d lose.

  21. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @michael reynolds:

    You said “60% less honest” twice.

    I would correct you, but that means he is only 36% honest… which is about right.

    Carry on!

  22. dmichael says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl: Wait a minute that is not fair to Ryan: He once drove the Weiner Mobile for Oscar Mayer.

  23. dmichael says:

    @Hal_10000: If I were king of the world, I would ban the phrase “entitlement reform.” It is Republican-speak for gutting Social Security Retirement and Disability benefits and Medicare.

  24. Barry says:

    @Hal_10000: “He never wanted to be speaker.”


  25. An Interested Party says:

    Oh look, Steve Bannon was soooo right at least about one thing…

  26. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Hal_10000: I see no compelling reason that yet another Wisconsin Republican would be a good choice for that district when they could have a person who cares about service to the nation and good government more than he or she cares about lining the pockets of the rich to an even greater extent while dismantling the social safety net and calling it “entitlement reform.” Why do you?

  27. gVOR08 says:

    @Hal_10000: No. The Rs need to run the white nationalist Nehlen. Let WI and the country see what the Republican Party has become. And let this loser run against Iron Stache.

  28. teve tory says:

    @gVOR08: headline at TPM:

    Trump Judicial Pick Won’t Say If Brown v. Board Of Education Was Correctly Decided

    But they’re not the racists, it’s the Democrats who’re racist.

  29. Matt says:

    @Barry: I laughed when Ryan said it and I laughed when I read HAL’s post. Completely divorced from reality…