Paul Ryan retirement plans could make waves for Texas delegation

by Abby Livingston, The Texas Tribune

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on March 22, 2018. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

WASHINGTON – U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan announced he would retire from Congress at the end of this term Wednesday morning, a move expected to have far-reaching political implications for this year’s midterm elections and the Republican Party’s future leadership in Congress.

Ryan pointed to his young family as the reason for his retirement.

“What I realize is, if I am here for one more term, my kids will have only known me as a weekend dad,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

Axios news first reported the news, which could have consequences for politics within the state of Texas. Should Republicans hold the House, the retirement will open up a leadership slot, which some Texans in the congressional delegation might eye.

U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, a Dallas Republican, eyed the whip slot if it opened when U.S. Speaker John Boehner retired in 2015, but the race didn’t come to pass.

But that opening is contingent on the GOP holding the House.

And it is hard to underscore how much of a blow to Republican unity this retirement could bring to the divided conference. While conservatives frequently criticized Ryan, he was widely viewed as the lone member who could hold the conference together.

Ryan is a prolific fundraiser and, by retiring, will lose much leverage on that front. The money he raises across the country largely goes toward television advertising to help vulnerable incumbents. This cycle, that money could potentially go toward the three Texas Republicans that Democrats say they are targeting most aggressively in the fall: Sessions and U.S. Reps. John Culberson of Houston and Will Hurd of Helotes.

At the news conference, Ryan suggested that his retirement would have no effect on individual Republican members’ races.

Privately, Republican strategists are deeply unhappy with the news. The tradition is for a speaker to run for re-election and resign after the midterms, setting up a special election in their home district. Ryan said at the news conference that he viewed such a move as being dishonest with his constituents and his “conscience could not handle going out that way.”

The speaker just completed a multi-million dollar fundraising swing through Texas and that also included a retreat with about 100 GOP donors.