Rumors about House Speaker Paul Ryan possibly leaving Congress next year dampened excitement over passage of the nation’s first tax overhaul since the Ronald Reagan era.
Some athletes try to retire at the top of their games, and maybe Ryan is having similar thoughts as he contemplates this major legislative victory.
Ryan has denied his exit is imminent, but speculation about his future revved into high gear two weeks ago after the online news site Politico reported plans for Ryan to leave Congress next year.
Janesville residents might save Politico’s 6,000-word opus for bedtime reading. It’s Beltway journalism built on a foundation of anonymous sources. The “three dozen people” Politico claims to have interviewed surely have names, but the vast majority aren’t in the story.
Despite its depth, the report reveals little about Ryan—“friends say he feels like he’s running a daycare center”—that we don’t already know or suspect. The story highlights Ryan’s torn feelings over his job, zooming in on the dysfunction afflicting our nation’s capital.
Small wonder Ryan should want to leave. He’s endured withering, often unfair criticism from both the left and right not to mention a parade of protesters stalking his home in Janesville.
We can hardly blame Ryan for wanting to escape the spotlight and spend more time with his family. For many politicians, “spending more time with family” is code to cover up their real reason for leaving. But Ryan has been sincere in his dedication to his family, notably insisting on coming home during weekends as a condition of accepting the speaker job.
Ryan exhibits a kind of humanity and decency too often missing in politics today. D.C. lost its way long ago, and much of the cynicism directed at Congress is justified, though Ryan pulled off a minor miracle by shepherding several bills through the House this year.
Amid the finger pointing and scheming, Ryan has succeeded where his counterpart in the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has often failed. If Congress appears to be sputtering, it’s largely McConnell’s and the Senate’s fault.
The GOP tax bill is by no means a perfect document, and we cannot claim the middle class emerges as a clear winner. But the bill is a genuine attempt to simplify the tax code, placing limits on, for example, deductions for mortgage interest and paid property taxes. The bill also seeks to make American companies more competitive by lowering the corporate tax rate.
Under a Republican-controlled Congress and presidency, the tax overhaul should signal greater legislative victories to come. But in this fractured Congress, many Republicans are greeting the tax bill’s passage with a sigh of relief, not so much the jubilation of conquerors.
As anyone familiar with Twitter knows, Congress is operating under unusual circumstances thanks largely to President Trump’s unpredictable leadership. Ryan has fortunately avoided getting into a tweet war with Trump, which might explain why Ryan has been spared from Trump’s infamous 140-character assaults. Nevertheless, working with Trump must be exhausting (in the daycare sense).
Through it all, Ryan has refused to debase himself by hurling insults at his critics. He reminds the Beltway of what life used to be like before Twitter, and he’s an example of how a leader should behave.
It’s not fair to blame Ryan for the antics of a president with little self-control.
Congress would lose a great deal—namely integrity—if Ryan were to leave. Paul, please don’t go.