Paul D. Ryan is embarking on an award- and portrait-studded farewell tour as he enjoys his last weeks leading the House, culminating in a stop at the Library of Congress, where he gave a maiden speech as speaker nearly three years ago to the date.
Since announcing in April that he wouldn’t run for re-election, the Wisconsin Republican and his staff have talked of the speaker “running through the tape” and saying goodbye at the appropriate time. Starting Wednesday, that time is apparently upon him.
It all starts over at the Pentagon on Wednesday, where Ryan will receive the Defense Department’s Distinguished Public Service Award.
Defense Secretary James Mattis will present the outgoing speaker with the honor, the highest one bestowed by the secretary on a private citizen, noncareer federal employee, foreign national or politician.
No other speaker can claim the award on their résumé, though previous recipients include former presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush; former Defense Secretary Ash Carter; former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger; and entertainer Bob Hope.
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Next comes his swan song on the House floor, scheduled for Thursday at noon. He’ll focus on the constituents of Wisconsin’s 1st District, thanking them and his staff who work in his district offices in Janesville, Kenosha and Racine.
The House Budget Committee will get some new decor later the same day, when Ryan’s chairman portrait is unveiled.
Ryan led the House Budget panel for four years, from 2011 until 2015. One of of his achievements as chairman was passing a two-year agreement that staved off a government shutdown and upped military spending by providing relief from deep cuts made by the sequester. He cut that deal with his Senate counterpart, Democrat Patty Murray of Washington
House chairman portraits, with price tags ranging from $25,000 to $50,000 depending on the size and artist, are not paid for with taxpayer dollars. Instead, lawmakers are tasked with setting up private portrait fundraising committees to solicit donations. Those committees often work with the U.S. Capitol Historical Society to cover the costs.
The accolades for Ryan will continue into next week, when he will speak at a Hudson Institute gala in New York City. At the Monday night event, he will receive an award named for the institute’s founder, Herman Kahn. Vice President Mike Pence, former Vice President Dick Cheney and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are among the previous recipients of the award.
To cap it all off, Ryan will give a farewell address on Dec. 5 in the Great Hall of the Library of Congress, the same spot where he gave a speech shortly after becoming speaker in Dec. 2015.
Ryan, sporting a full beard, laid out an ambitious agenda back then based on his conservative ideals. He saw some of his goals, including a sweeping overhaul of the tax code, signed into law during his speakership.
The beard only survived another month or so. Unclear if it, or even some senioritis-style stubble, will make the return trip.