Rep. Paul Ryan’s office is dismissing as speculation two news reports that say the speaker of the House is likely to leave Congress by the end of 2018 and might leave much sooner.
Gov. Scott Walker and President Donald Trump were among those expressing support for Ryan after the website Politico on Thursday published a lengthy article saying Ryan is likely to leave Congress after the midterm elections in 2018.
Both Politico and the Huffington Post published reports suggesting Ryan might even leave his job as speaker of the House after the GOP passes a rewrite of the U.S. tax code. That action is expected next week.
Asked by a reporter Thursday if he’s quitting anytime soon, Ryan chuckled and said, “I’m not. No.”
A Ryan spokeswoman called the reports “pure speculation.”
The Politico article states, in part: “In recent interviews with three dozen people who know the speaker—fellow lawmakers, congressional and administration aides, conservative intellectuals and Republican lobbyists—not a single person believed Ryan will stay in Congress past 2018.”
None of those sources are quoted by name as saying that.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said President Donald Trump called Ryan and said he’d be unhappy if Ryan left Congress.
“The speaker assured the president that those were not accurate reports and that they look forward to working together for a long time to come,” Sanders said.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., an obvious candidate for the top GOP job if Ryan leaves, dismissed the rumors as well. “The speaker is not retiring,” McCarthy told reporters. “He enjoys his job. He loves it.”
Gov. Scott Walker tweeted, several hours after the stories were published: “Just checked with my friend @PRyan. He’s not going anywhere.”
Ryan’s chief political fundraiser, Spencer Zwick, said: “He is running for re-election. We will keep the House majority, and he will continue to be the speaker of the House. He is fully committed to continuing to lead this important agenda.”
Even so, several GOP operatives said privately that there have long been whispers that the 19-year House veteran wouldn’t keep the post for a long time and a departure wouldn’t be surprising. They spoke on condition of anonymity to describe private conversations.
The Politico article points out that Ryan has an agenda—including entitlement program reforms—that he dearly wants to accomplish, but if he appears to be a lame duck, that would weaken his position in the House.
Ryan also could be weakened in his attempt at re-election next November if constituents thought he was unlikely to serve out the two-year term.
Politico says Ryan is tired of trying to manage Republican infighting and is also keen to spend more time with his family, especially his teenage children before they leave the nest.
Ryan, 47, has served as 1st District representative since 1999 and has won re-election easily. This year, two Democrats have announced they will challenge him next year. They are Cathy Myers of Janesville and Randy Bryce of Caledonia, who has garnered national attention and recently published a poll suggesting Ryan is vulnerable.
Ryan also faces opposition from a member of his own party, Paul Nehlen of the town of Delavan, who attacks Ryan from the right.
Ryan pushed a repeal of President Barack Obama’s health care law through the House in May after encountering resistance from both ends of the GOP’s political spectrum, only to see the effort run aground in the GOP-led Senate.
Though Congress seems on the verge of passing the tax bill—the GOP’s first major legislative accomplishment this year—he faces negotiations with Democrats over spending and immigration likely to produce compromises that conservatives—including Nehlen—will angrily oppose.
Nehlen recently traveled to Alabama to campaign for Roy Moore’s Senate campaign. Moore lost in Tuesday’s election to a Democrat, sending out political shock waves.
Ryan took the job of speaker reluctantly after former Speaker John Boehner of Ohio stepped aside abruptly in 2015.
Ryan initially said he was uninterested in being speaker, calling it a job for empty-nesters.
Ryan was already a national figure for his work on economic issues in 2012 when Mitt Romney chose him as his presidential running mate.
Politico says Ryan considered retirement after he and Romney lost to President Barack Obama.
Politico points out Ryan still enjoys the support of many House Republicans, even though Freedom Caucus Republicans often oppose him.
And Ryan enjoys an unprecedented campaign war chest and an ability to raise more.
During last year’s presidential campaign, he refused to campaign with Trump after the candidate was heard on a leaked 2005 recording describing lewd behavior with women. He has criticized several remarks Trump has made as president, including his blaming of both sides for a riot at a demonstration by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, last summer. The two men’s relationship has run hot and cold.
Ryan’s hold on the speakership could end in 2019 whether he wants to keep the job or not.
Democrats will need to gain 24 seats in next November’s midterm elections to capture House control. Trump’s staggering unpopularity and recent Democratic victories have raised that party’s hopes of grabbing a House majority.
Ryan has given reporters an extensive preview of next year’s GOP agenda, promising action on restraining the growth of government benefit programs.
But Tuesday’s Senate election in Alabama, in which Democrat Doug Jones scored an upset, will bring the GOP’s margin of control in that chamber to 51-49, making any action on cutting the budget a long shot.