Saturday 21 April 2018

Republicans in disarray as speaker quits to 'put family first'

Donald Trump said House Speaker Paul Ryan, left, will ‘leave a legacy of achievement that nobody can question. Photo: Getty Images
Donald Trump said House Speaker Paul Ryan, left, will ‘leave a legacy of achievement that nobody can question. Photo: Getty Images

Rozina Sabur

Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House of Representatives, has announced he will not be seeking re-election in November, in a blow to Republican confidence ahead of the race.

The departure of Mr Ryan, the most senior Republican in the House and their biggest fundraiser, is the most prominent in a series of retirements among the party in recent months.

The lawmaker denied that the party's uphill battle to maintain control of Capitol Hill had driven his decision, saying he was relinquishing his role to spend more time with his wife and three children.

"I have been a member of Congress for almost two decades. My kids weren't even born when I was elected," Mr Ryan said.

"What I realise is, if I'm here for one more term, my kids will only have ever known me as a weekend dad.

"I just can't let that happen, so I will be setting new priorities in my life."

Some will see Mr Ryan's retirement as a sign of the uncertainty over whether the party can maintain control of the House in November's midterm elections.

More than 40 Republican representatives are leaving the chamber, and Mr Ryan's departure is likely to have an impact on the party's morale.

Just weeks ago, Eric Cantor, the former House majority leader and a friend of Mr Ryan, told 'The Washington Post': "The notion that Paul Ryan is just going to abdicate and leave is preposterous... it would be a signal of surrender."

Allies of Mr Ryan insisted that he was simply committed to spending time with his family.

The Wisconsin representative has been a prolific fundraiser, bringing in more than $54m (€43.5m) in donations for the 2018 election, and some fear he may now slow down his efforts before his January 2019 exit.

His departure may also trigger a civil war between Republicans for the cherished role, with Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise, Mr Ryan's deputies, reported to be engaged in a silent struggle to become the next House leader.

Once referred to as America's most popular Republican, Mr Ryan got off to a rocky start with the US president - distancing himself from Donald Trump when he was a presidential candidate.

In the end, the 48-year-old opted to put the party above his personal views.

Just before the 2016 election, Mr Ryan confirmed he had voted for "our candidate", choosing not to refer to Mr Trump by name.

However, in office, Mr Ryan worked closely with the Trump administration to deliver the Republican tax bill in December, for which Mr Trump expressed his gratitude.

The president tweeted yesterday: "Speaker Paul Ryan is a truly good man, and while he will not be seeking re-election, he will leave a legacy of achievement that nobody can question. We are with you, Paul."

Mr Ryan has enjoyed a 20-year career in Congress since he was first elected to the House in 1998. Despite claiming he "did not want" the job, he was made speaker in 2015 when John Boehner, his predecessor, retired.

The lawmaker has been touted as a future presidential candidate, given his relative youth and his national name recognition after running alongside Mitt Romney in the 2012 election.

Political pundits yesterday speculated on whether Mr Ryan's retirement is paving the way for a presidential bid.

They noted that Mr Ryan did not rule out a future career in politics, saying instead: "This year will be my last one as a member of the House," and outlining the work still to be done.

Representative Nancy Pelosi, his Democratic counterpart, paid tribute to Mr Ryan.

"The speaker has been an avid advocate for his point of view and for the people of his district," she said in a statement.

"Despite our differences, I commend his steadfast commitment to our country."

© Daily Telegraph, London

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