Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan, whose short tenure as House speaker has been a miserable failure, is cutting his losses and running away before the November midterms can crush him.
Rumors have swirled for months that Ryan wouldn’t stick around, but Axios reported Wednesday that Ryan will make an official announcement soon that he’s not going to run for re-election.
Ryan reluctantly accepted the speakership in 2015, after then-Speaker John Boehner was run out of town by the nihilist wing of his own party, the House Freedom Caucus. The clock has been ticking for Ryan ever since, as he faced the same kinds of challenges from the same extremists in his party.
Even after Ryan’s party took full control of the federal government, Ryan has little to show for his time as leader. He failed to deliver on nearly every promise, especially the yearslong threats to repeal Obamacare.
Ryan’s singular achievement was pushing through the massive tax bill that is already backfiring for Ryan’s party. The bill was unpopular with voters when it passed and hasn’t improved much since.
Ryan managed to humiliate himself when he boasted about the supposed success of the bill by applauding a high school secretary’s $1.50/week pay increase. The secretary, Julia Ketchum, called out Ryan for bragging about such a minimal increase while the millionaires and billionaires of America benefitted so greatly from the tax scam.
The tax bill is such a failure, in fact, that Ryan’s party is already backing away from running on it this November.
Ryan has lived in the shadow of the former Democratic speaker, Nancy Pelosi, who is widely recognized as one of the most effective speakers in modern history. She’s even a more effective leader of her caucus in the minority and has been able to keep her party together on significant votes while Ryan fends off attacks from all sides.
Once upon a time, Ryan even entertained presidential aspirations. In what might have been an eventual stepping stone to the White House, he joined Mitt Romney’s ticket in 2012, but turned out to be a bigger problem than an asset.
Ryan struggled to explain how his far-right positions on issues like reproductive rights weren’t in conflict with the slightly less extremist Romney while at the same time giving a wink and a nod to his fellow radicals that he still had their back.
That led to a number of awkward moments for the ultimately doomed duo.
And then there’s this year’s midterms. Ryan has easily won re-election since joining Congress, but for the first time, he’s facing a serious challenger in Randy Bryce, who’s raising tons of money to take out Ryan.
For Californians, Ryan’s legacy tax bill means tax hikes, higher property taxes, and higher health care premiums. Economists also warned the bill could slow California’s economic growth. But Wall Street tycoons and wealthy corporate executives are growing richer by the billions.
On the up side, with Ryan gone, congresswoman Mimi Walters (R-Irvine) has one less excuse for ignoring her constituents. Over the congressional recess, Walters chose to attend a glitzy soiree with Ryan and Republican donors rather than hold a town hall with constituents. Walters hasn’t held an in-person town hall in her district in more than 540 days.
In a year when election prognosticators are nearly unanimous in their conclusion that the GOP is likely to lose the House this year, it’s no wonder Ryan doesn’t want to stick around. Maybe he thinks he can save face if he quits instead of waiting around to be fired.