Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) took office in January 1999. Before becoming Speaker of the House in 2015, Ryan served on the Budget Committee and served a brief tenure as Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, which is widely regarded as the most powerful committee in the house. Ryan announced April 11, 2018, that he will not be running for reelection to be the House representative for the 1st district in Wisconsin. The alleged reasoning for Ryan’s sudden departure is to spend more time with his teenage sons.
“What I realize is if I am here for one more term, my kids will only have ever known me as a weekend dad. I just can’t let that happen,” Ryan said.
Washington Post journalist and Chair of Public Policy and Social Science at Vanderbilt University Larry Bartels is just one of the many political pundits skeptical about Ryan’s reasoning for the sudden departure. As of now the mainstream speculations point to the frequent clash between Trump and Ryan over issues of budget and legislative tactics. Others turn to Ryan’s failed attempt to shrink the deficit and cut welfare spending as a reason for his retirement from the House.
Unlike his predecessor John Boehner (R-Ohio), Ryan will carry out the rest of his term as speaker, which will end in January of 2019. The important question becomes who will succeed Ryan as Speaker of the House at the start of his retirement.
The two obvious candidates were the next highest ranking republicans in the House, Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Steve Scalise (R-La.), the latter of whom is still recovering from an attack before the annual congressional baseball game last year. McCarthy is currently the House Majority Leader and Scalise is next in command as Majority Whip. On April 15, 2018, Ryan endorsed McCarthy to be the next Speaker of the House. Scalise publicly remarked that he respects the decision of Ryan and believes that McCarthy is the best man for the job. As a result, Scalise will not run for the position.
However, Ryan’s endorsement and Scalise’s blessing do not mean that McCarthy is going to be able to succeed Paul Ryan easily. McCarthy was a front-runner to replace Boehner in 2015, but conservative opposition caused Ryan to have to take the reigns. The House Freedom Caucus is already declaring their distaste for McCarthy and all those in the current Republican leadership. The libertarian-leaning members of the House Republicans want a drastic change in leadership, and see McCarthy as Ryan’s right hand man with no revolutionary ideas or hope for the future of the Republican party.
Of course, all of this speculation relies on the presumption that the Republicans keep control of the House, which they have done since 2011. Per the U.S. constitution, all house seats are up for election in 2018. Currently, the Republicans hold the majority with 237 representatives compared to the Democrats’ 193. With 218 as the magical number for a majority of the 435-seat chamber, the Republicans currently control the house with a slim margin. In the event that the Democrats take control of the house, a Democratic Representative will replace Ryan. RealClearPolitics tracks all major polls and averages them to make predictions as to who will control the house. These averages suggest that the Democrats have a reasonable chance of taking control of the house.
Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore/Flickr.