Speaker Paul D. Ryan on Tuesday sought to tamp down rumors that he’s planning to resign soon or retire at the end of 2018, separately telling the House Republican Conference and the press that he’s not going anywhere.
However, the Wisconsin Republican did not qualify either statement with a timeline, leaving open to the possibility that he may not seek another term in Congress.
When asked during a news conference Tuesday after the weekly GOP conference meeting if he was running for re-election in 2018, Ryan snickered.
“Oh, look, I’m not going anywhere anytime soon, and just let’s leave that thing at that,” said.
Notably, the Wisconsin Republican did not say he was running for re-election.
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Ryan has some time to decide. The Wisconsin filing deadline is June 1. And the primary is Aug. 14.
As to why he felt the need to tell his conference he wasn’t going anywhere, Ryan said, “I actually think that piece was very irresponsible. It was a speculative piece. And it was faulty speculation, and I wanted to put it to rest.”
Ryan could have been referring to either a HuffPost story saying he could quit soon or a Politico story that reported he has told close confidants that this will be his final term as speaker.
Members leaving the GOP conference said Ryan received a standing ovation after he told him he wasn’t going anywhere. They said he did not attach a timeline to that statement and whether that meant he would stick around in the next Congress, but they didn’t interpret it otherwise.
“I anticipate that he’s going to run for re-election,” Rep. Gary Palmer said. “You know there’s speculation that he’s going to run for governor, but [Scott] Walker is running for governor. I just think it’s, you know, fake news.”
The Alabama Republican said he’s had private conversations with Ryan that he won’t talk about but added, “I’m confident the speaker is sticking with us.”
Rep. Tom Cole said Ryan’s pronouncement was met with “much applause, mighty cheers.”
While the speaker did not specify how long he’d stay, the Oklahoma Republican said, “It was an unequivocal , ‘I’m not going to leave while we’re in this fight and while we have the chance to do big things. We’re getting our agenda done.’”
The House is expected to pass a landmark tax overhaul Tuesday, sending it to the Senate where it is also expected to pass and soon land on President Donald Trump’s desk.
A tax code rewrite has been a long-time priority for Ryan, and some see it as the high point of his career.
“It’s going to be a highlight day for Paul Ryan. The only problem is in his dream world he would’ve been Kevin Brady,” Cole said, referring to the House Ways and Means chairman. “I think he also knows that he’s got an aggressive agenda for next year. I don’t see him quitting and going anywhere.”
As to the prospect of Ryan not running for re-election, Cole said, “My personal view is no speaker should ever commit to a timeline on something like that. Look, you stay as long as you can be effective. ... And I think the election should be a factor that everybody takes into account.”
House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows said he was one of the members who applauded when Ryan said he wasn’t leaving.
“There was comments that some of you didn’t stand up ... but I think that was a joke more than anything else,” the North Carolina Republican said.
Meadows said he didn’t take Ryan’s omission of a timeline as him leaving the door open to not running for re-election.
“He was just pushing back on reports that he was leaving, and he pushed back pretty firmly,” he said. “I wouldn’t take it as he was leaving the door open based on anything he said in there.”
Bridget Bowman contributed to this story.