The three most powerful individual people in the U.S. government are the president, the Senate majority leader and the speaker of the House. One of those, the Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, has announced that he is leaving. U.S. Rep. Gary Palmer, R-Alabama, thanked Ryan for his service in a statement.
“When Paul Ryan became Speaker of the House, he accepted the challenge of bringing together a Republican majority that was sharply divided,” Palmer said. “The office of Speaker was not a position he sought, but at that time, he was the only member who had the respect and trust of the majority. So, reluctantly, he put his own interests aside and accepted the role and the responsibility of uniting the Republican majority. In his short tenure, Speaker Ryan helped ensure that Republicans maintained our majority in the 2016 election and then rallied us to pass significant health care reform that had it passed the Senate would have put us on a path to repairing and restoring America’s health care system. He then brought us together to pass historic tax reform that will benefit American families and our economy for years to come. But all of this has come at a cost that few people fully understand or appreciate about those who serve in Congress, putting in the hours in Washington and in their districts while trying to maintain a family life.”
“I will miss Speaker Ryan, especially our policy discussions, but I fully understand his reasons for retiring and have the utmost respect for his decision,” Palmer continued. “Speaker Ryan has given great service to our nation and now with his decision to retire, he is demonstrating the character and sense of personal priorities that we all should emulate… that our first obligation is to our family, our spouses and our children. I wish him and his family the very best.”
Ryan, who was facing both a conservative primary challenger and a well funded Democratic general election opponent in what is a swing district, said that he wanted to spend more time with his family. Ryan was Mitt Romney’s running mate in 2012. Ryan being on the ticket and fellow Wisconsin Reince Priebus chairing the Republican National Committee were not enough to sway the normally blue midwestern state in 2012; but in 2016 the state surprised many political pundits for swinging to the Republican camp for the first time in decades in 2016.
A number of candidates have emerged early for Speaker. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, appears to be the early leader, but McCarthy appeared to be the favorite in 2015 too, but could not sway enough conservatives to support his candidacy so abruptly removed his name from consideration. Former Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) is reportedly mulling a run for the post. “I’ve had colleagues encourage me to consider that and I’m open to that,” Jordan told reporters.
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-Louisiana, is also being discussed as a possible Ryan replacement, but Saturday a Scalise spokesman told Politico that Scalise was backing McCarthy.
“Whip Scalise’s focus remains on moving our conservative agenda forward and maintaining our Republican majority,” said Scalise spokesman Chris Bond. “When a Speaker’s race is called, he’ll be supporting Leader McCarthy.”
Democrats are hopeful that they can retake the House of Representatives, vaulting Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, back to the Speaker’s position, an office she held from 2007 to 2011.
Gary Palmer represents Alabama’s Sixth Congressional District and is a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus.
Original reporting by Politico’s Rachael Bade and USA Today’s Eliza Collins contributed to this report.