On April 11, House Speaker Paul Ryan announced that this will be his last year serving as a member of the House of Representatives in Washington DC. The Republican congressman from Wisconsin created a swirl of attention with the news, attracting remarks from across the political spectrum.
Critics were quick to share their thoughts on the decision, pundits offered an endless stream of opinions, and allies regrouped to consider Speaker Ryan’s replacement and Republican strategies for what will be a hotly contested mid-term election.
“You all know that I did not seek this job. I took it reluctantly, but I have given this job everything that I have. And I have no regrets whatsoever for having accepted this responsibility. This has been one of the two greatest honors of my life,” said Speaker Ryan. “But you also know that this is a job that does not last forever. You realize that you hold the office for just a small part of our history—so you better make the most of it. It’s fleeting, and that inspires you to do big things. And on that score, I think we have achieved a heck of a lot.
Speaker Ryan made it clear that he was not resigning, and he intended to serve the full term he was elected to. But he planned to retire in January. He has been a member of Congress for almost two decades, and his decision comes as Ryan wants to spend more time with his family.
Several organizations and political rivals, who would have faced Ryan in a fall election, released statements in reaction to the retirement news.
“When you look up ‘White Privilege’ in the dictionary, you see Paul Ryan’s photo. With few actual accomplishments Paul Ryan was somehow placed on a pedestal as some gifted intellectual. Paul Ryan proved that in America if you’re born rich you can still achieve your dreams of one day giving yourself a massive tax break if you hang around Washington DC long enough. Now he will have more time to spend with his family and contemplate his legacy, the $1.5 trillion in debt he’s left with our children.”
— Executive Director of One Wisconsin Now
“Paul Ryan has been a passionate advocate for Wisconsin and a dedicated public servant for two decades. A tireless fighter for conservative principles, Paul was an ideas guy who was always fighting for hard-working Wisconsin families. From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank Paul for everything he has done for Wisconsin and the Republican Party.”
– Brad Courtney, Chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin
“Paul Ryan decided to quit today rather than face Randy Bryce and the voters. With nearly $5 million raised to date, a strong field program aided by organized labor, a broad coalition of support locally and nationally, Randy Bryce is incredibly well positioned to be the next representative for the First District. Electorates far more conservative than Wisconsin’s First have already elected Democrats in special elections in Wisconsin and across the country.”
– Lauren Hitt, Communications Director of Randy Bryce for Congress
“Paul Ryan has been a champion for his constituents and a respected leader among his peers. He has left an indelible mark on Congress as an institution, most notably helping to secure the largest tax cut for the American people in a generation. We are grateful for his service to our country and his leadership in our Party.”
– Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, Chairwoman of Republican National Committee
“Paul Ryan is running away from the harm his policies have caused our neighbors in Wisconsin’s First District and working families nationwide. I am the candidate who will replace him because we need a teacher in Congress who can educate and mobilize voters to reverse the damage Paul Ryan has done to the middle class over his two decades in office. Paul Ryan’s inaction on commonsense, bipartisan legislation to protect women, students, and DREAMers is indefensible. I am prepared to lead where Paul Ryan has failed to act. Voters in Wisconsin’s First District are ready for a representative who will fight for them.”
– Cathy Myers, Democratic challenger for Congress
“People across America can now look forward to a time where Paul Ryan is not working every day to undermine our fundamental freedoms, including reproductive freedom. Ryan repeatedly tried, and failed, to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and each day he’s been in office, he’s shown that he does not stand with women and families. Instead of championing women and families, Ryan chose to champion Donald Trump’s backwards agenda. Trump’s legacy is Ryan’s legacy – that’s how history will remember him.”
– NARAL National Communications Director Kaylie Hanson Long
“History will not be kind to Paul Ryan. He will not be remembered as a visionary or a great legislator, but as a weak representative that compromised what little integrity he had to appease Donald Trump and an authoritarian administration. Paul Ryan has never been a leader, but rather a run-of-the-mill Republican, who’s biggest claim to fame will be pushing through an abomination of a tax bill that lines the pockets of his wealthy friends at the expense of working Americans.”
– Tom Steyer, President of NextGen America
“Paul Ryan will go down in history as an inept and cowardly leader who would rather quit than do the right thing. So as he slithers away from Congress in disgrace, we want to offer him our thoughts and prayers.”
– Andrew Patrick, Media Director of Coalition to Stop Gun Violence
“Speaker Paul Ryan’s decision not to face Wisconsin voters this year is yet another major warning sign for Governor Scott Walker’s campaign. Voters in Wisconsin want change – and that’s why both Ryan and Walker faced difficult paths to re-election. Unfortunately for Walker, panic buttons and wake up calls don’t fix roads or improve schools. Wisconsin voters know he’s spent his time as Governor chasing national celebrity at the cost of Wisconsin’s middle class families, and no level of blaring alarm bells can change that.”
– Melissa Miller, Press Secretary for Democratic Governors Association
“He has been running away from his constituents and refusing to hold town halls. As Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan has refused to allow a vote on the Clean Dream Act, and just passed a disgraceful tax bill that further concentrates wealth at the top. Ryan’s retirement provides an opening for a champion for working people to take his place.”
– Christine Neumann-Ortiz, Executive Director of Voces de la Frontera
“After more than a year of hiding from his constituents and a career of pushing for policies that hurt his community and the country, Speaker Ryan’s decision to not seek re-election shows he’s learning what PPAWI has known for years, attacks on access to health care are deeply unpopular and dangerous.”
– Nicole Safar, Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin