Paul Ryan to step down:
In what could prove a heavy blow for the Trump Administration, Paul Ryan, a prominent Republican politician and the 54th Speaker of the House of Representatives, announced on April 11th that he will not be seeking re-election come the 2018 midterms.
Mr Ryan’s address to reporters on Capitol Hill was delivered immediately after a briefing with colleagues. Here he made clear his intentions, with Ryan citing his previous great accomplishments and family commitment as the core reasons for the timing of his decision.
Reflecting on the nature of his high-profile role as Speaker – a position he’s held since October 2015 – Ryan described his part in political history as ‘fleeting’, going on to liken his short tenure as Speaker to the part-time role as a ‘weekend Dad’ that the job forced him to take.
He also reiterated that his decision to move on was ‘not a resignation’ and that he intends to serve the remainder of his term, until January 2019, in full capacity.
Why does this matter?
In his almost 20-year service as the House member for Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District, Mr Ryan has achieved a lot.
First elected in 1998, at only 28 years old and following a stint on the Hill as a political aide, he’s since delivered some major commitments to his constituents and to the wider party alike. These include numerous multimillion-dollar transport and infrastructure projects in his home state of Wisconsin, among other local improvements, and representing all Republicans as deliverer of the 2011 State of the Union rebuttal.
His successes at home and on the Hill made him a vital asset for the incoming Trump administration. Equipped with a disarming charm and a persuasive demeanour, Ryan has managed to keep House voters largely in line; helping to pass an enormous $1.3tn spending bill, boosting military funding to record levels and pushing Trump’s infamous large-scale tax reform through Congress.
What does this mean for America?
Behind closed doors the prevailing sentiment will be one of mourning.
A highly commended Conservative, Ryan, a one-time Vice-Presidential candidate back when he was just 42, is considered by many to be a key bridge between Trump and the more traditional Republican membership.
Even through the shower of praise posted to social media by many senior Republicans, it’s clear that the impact of Ryan’s choice will be felt. His announcement comes at a turbulent time for the Administration, following a series of sudden, high-profile resignations and retirements.
Reince Priebus, former Chair of the Republican National Committee and ally of Ryan, resigned as Trump’s Chief of Staff after just 6 months in the role. Other big names to leave the Whitehouse prematurely include former Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, Press Secretary Sean Spicer and, last week, Homeland Security advisor Tom Bossert.
His departure could also prove damaging in the run up to the November 2018 midterm elections.
Since Trump’s 2016 inauguration, the Democrats have ‘flipped’ nearly 40 Republican seats, including some in surprising parts of the country. In a wave of anti-administration momentum, highly-motivated Democratic campaigners have taken to the streets to win elections in deeply-Republican seats like Wisconsin’s Senate District 10 and Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District.
With the outcome of the midterms generally seen as an indicator for the Administration’s health, the result will be telling.
On the one hand, Republicans will need to fight back hard against left wing momentum at a time when their President’s approval ratings are slipping. On the other, Trump is viewed by many as politically successful in keeping to his election pledges. Presiding over a strengthening economy, decisive international action against the Syrian and North Korean regimes, and a tough stance on illegal immigration.
Trump’s controversial and inflammatory election campaign seems like a distant memory.
Earlier this year, increased wage growth caused the stock market to fall in what was seen by some as a shift in the country’s wealth away from the top percentiles and back to the working classes. With all 435 House seats, 35 Senate seats and 39 State and Governorship positions being contested, 2018 could be anyone’s race.
What next for Mr Ryan?
His short and to-the-point speech was given in a manner befitting of a straight-shooting, value-upstanding Conservative dealmaker like Ryan. But it’s unclear what his next move will be.
Over the course of his career, Ryan has demonstrated just how in-tune he really is. Most recently, he sensibly backed away from Trump’s repeal of Obamacare in the face of fierce cross-party resistance, proving he can hold his own against a boisterous President determined to drive his agenda.
Now, age 48, Ryan’s on his way out of the political theatre he’s served in for so long. Despite his inevitable replacement, the Republicans surely have lost their poster-boy. Paul Ryan leaves a legacy as a political actor as effective and ambitious as they come.