U.S. House Speaker Ryan won't seek re-election as Republicans worry about midterms

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan says he won't run for re-election, injecting another layer of uncertainty as Republicans face worries over losing their majority in the fall.

Departure could complicate Republican Party efforts to retain the House in November election

House Speaker Paul Ryan, shown at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 22, said Wednesday he won't seek re-election. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan says he won't run for re-election, injecting another layer of uncertainty as Republicans face worries over losing their majority in the fall.

Claiming he's accomplished a "heckuva lot," the Wisconsin Republican cast the decision as a personal one, saying he did not want his children growing up with a "weekend dad." Ryan told reporters at a news conference on Wednesday morning that he believes he's leaving with strong accomplishments his party can sell to voters ahead of November elections.

"I have given this job everything I have," he said. "We're going to have a great record to run on."

Ryan's plans have been the source of much speculation and will set off a scramble among his lieutenants to take the helm. A self-styled budget guru, Ryan had made tax cuts a centrepiece of his legislative agenda, and a personal cause, and Congress delivered on that late last year.

Ryan, 48, announced his decision at a closed-door meeting of House Republicans on Wednesday morning, according to those present. His tone was sombre and he read directly from prepared remarks.

"After nearly 20 years in the House, the Speaker is proud of all that has been accomplished and is ready to devote more of his time to being a husband and a father," Ryan adviser Brendan Buck said in a statement. "While he did not seek the position, he told his colleagues that serving as Speaker has been the professional honour of his life, and he thanked them for the trust they placed in him."

The Speaker called extended family and a few close friends Tuesday night, and alerted a few staff. On Wednesday morning, he called the president and the vice-president, and informed the rest of his staff before going to the conference meeting, officials said.

Ryan will serve out his term and retire in January, Buck said.

'Young gun'

A Republican from Janesville, Wis., Ryan was first elected to Congress in 1998. Along with representatives Eric Cantor and Kevin McCarthy, he branded himself a rising "Young Gun" in an aging party.

He became Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's running mate in 2012.

Ryan was pulled into the leadership job by the abrupt retirement of House Speaker John Boehner in 2015. Boehner had struggled to wrangle the chamber's restless conservative wing and failed to seal big-picture deals on fiscal policy he sought. Ryan had more trust with the hardliners in the House, but had no more success in brokering fundamental reform of entitlement he sought.

He ultimately had to wrestle with another unexpected challenge: Donald Trump, a president with little of Ryan's interest in policy detail or ideological purity. The two have not had a close working relationship.

Lawmakers had expected Ryan might leave Congress if Republicans lose the House in November. The early announcement could have an impact on Ryan's ability to raise campaign funds for Republican candidates.

More than three dozen House Republicans have said they are retiring, or running for another office or resigning. Democrats need to win 23 seats in the November elections to retake a majority in the House, which Republicans have controlled since 2011.

Democrats believe voter concerns over rising medical costs, and Republican plans to cut Medicare and Medicaid will assist them in their fight to retake the House.

With files from Reuters


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