Big Ryan Question: Will He Have to Step Down Early?

Some in GOP don't want a lame-duck speaker ahead of the midterms
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 12, 2018 1:32 PM CDT
Big Ryan Question: Will He Have to Step Down Early?
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Paul Ryan's surprise decision to announce his retirement from Congress before the midterms now raises one big question: Will Republicans allow him to remain as House speaker through the end of his term or try to get a new leader in place as quickly as possible? Politico, for instance, reports that some senior Republicans already are agitating for him to step down as speaker, arguing that the party can't afford to have a lame-duck leader in place at such a crucial time. “We would have more success if there’s no ambiguity as to what the leadership structure might look like,” says Rep. Tom Graves, who wants an early vote to replace Ryan. Notably, Graves is a close ally of Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the House majority leader, who is seen as a likely successor. Related coverage:

  • By summer? A post at Axios suggests that Ryan could be out of his leadership post by the end of July. It's not so much about fundraising concerns, a formidable Ryan strength, as it is about "certainty and stability."

  • 2 frontrunners: McCarthy is one frontrunner to replace Ryan, and the other is Rep. Steve Scalise, another top Ryan lieutenant. Both have already been "jockeying behind the scenes," reports the Hill. A longshot also is in the mix: Rep. Cathy McMorris of Washington state, the only woman in the current House GOP leadership.
  • Photo criticism: After President Trump tweeted a photo of the GOP congressional leadership, made up of all white men, CBS' Gayle King pressed Ryan on the lack of women and minorities, reports CNN. "I feel very excluded," she told Ryan Thursday, and he then pledged to recruit more of both to the party.
  • Why now? The standard move would have been for Ryan to run for re-election and then step down after victory. But he says he'd feel guilty deceiving his constituents like that. In a New York Times analysis, Carl Hulse floats another factor: "His choice to leave the House voluntarily at 48 gives him a chance to limit his culpability for a potential loss of the majority or face its consequences, possibly leaving him viable for a future political run."
  • Social Security: With Ryan leaving, fundamental reforms to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid look less likely, reports the Wall Street Journal. Ryan has been the party's leading advocate for changes, and he'll leave Congress "with no substantial progress on any of them, few lawmakers interested in picking up the torch, and a clear signal that prospects are dim for any big overhaul in the foreseeable future."
  • Midterms: Ryan's move has the "stink of surrender" ahead of the midterms, writes Tom Dickinson at Rolling Stone. The sentiment is a common one. "We’re watching the GOP’s once formidable advantage in the House crumble in real time, retirement by retirement," tweets Nate Cohn of the New York Times. "We could look back and say this was the coup de grace."
  • Cartoonists' views: The Washington Post rounds up political cartoons from around the country in the wake of Ryan's announcement. He won't find them flattering.
(More Paul Ryan stories.)

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