Politics

Help Wanted: Must Lead GOP, Raise Money, Give Up Life

Paul Ryan knew a speaker’s job is never done, and time was short

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Family Time

When the going gets tough, the tough … head back to Wisconsin to spend time with their kids in non-weekend situations.

UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 29: Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., walks with his children, from left, Sam, Charlie, and Liza, after being sworn in on the House floor as the 54th Speaker of the House, October 29, 2015. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., walks with his children, from left, Sam, Charlie, and Liza, after being sworn in on the House floor as the 54th speaker of the House on Oct. 29, 2015. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

With Speaker Paul D. Ryan announcing Wednesday that he would not run for re-election, the political establishment in Washington was stood on its head, left to wonder what it all means: for Republican chances to retain the House majority in November; who succeeds Ryan as leader; whether Ryan would, as he says, stay on as speaker until January; and just who will step into his place as chief rainmaker for GOP fundraisers. 

Nathan L. Gonzales at Inside Elections and CQ senior staff writer Kate Ackley break it all down in the latest Political Theater podcast.

Ryan, who is in his 10th term, got personal when he discussed his reasons for hanging it up. “Some of you know my story. My dad died when I was 16, the — the age my daughter is,” he said. 

“My kids weren’t even born when I was first elected. Our oldest was 13 years old when I became speaker. Now all three of our kids are teenagers. And one thing I’ve learned about teenagers is their idea of an ideal weekend is not necessarily to spend all of the time with their parents,” he said. 

But the GOP family the speaker leaves behind is reeling, especially when it comes to raising money for candidates who don’t have the kind of national profile Ryan has as speaker and a former vice presidential nominee in 2012. 

Speaking Out

Tip O'Neill was the last speaker to go out, for the most part, on his own terms. (CQ Roll Call)
Tip O’Neill was the last speaker to go out, for the most part, on his own terms. (CQ Roll Call file photo)

Ryan said he not only wants to serve out his term as a member of Congress, but also as speaker. If so, that’s a departure from the norm. The last time a speaker announced he was retiring ahead of the elections and served through was Tip O’Neill, who was speaker for 10 years from 1977 to 1987 and announced his plans ahead of the 1986 elections. Most everyone since then has quit early (John A. Boehner, J. Dennis Hastert, Newt Gingrich, Jim Wright), lost the majority (Nancy Pelosi) or lost re-election (Tom Foley).

Young ’Un

As Ryan pointed out, he’s been a member of Congress for almost 20 years, and he was around the Hill as a staffer, and famously as a waiter at Tortilla Coast, even before that. 

Still, he was the youngest speaker in the modern era of politics, being sworn into the post at age 45. And at age 48, he’s certainly got plenty of time for another career or two. 

youngest-speakers-01 (1)

Short-Timer

His tenure will also be among the shortest as well. Even if he serves out through the end of this Congress, his will be the shortest stint for a speaker since Wright left. 

12Ryan-speakertenure2_Roll Call online

The Kicker

Ryan practices in October 2009 for the charity football game — Members vs. Capitol Police — on the National Mall. (CQ Roll Call archive photo)
Ryan practices in October 2009 for the charity football game — Members vs. Capitol Police — on the National Mall. (Marty LaVor/CQ Roll Call archive photo)

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