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Paul Ryan Departure Circus Swings Into High Gear

Reports point to resignation, retirement

Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., is dismissing reports he is on his way out, but the rumors of his departure linger. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., is dismissing reports he is on his way out, but the rumors of his departure linger. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

One report speculated he would quit after the tax overhaul was signed into law. Another said he was done after the 2018 elections, opting for retirement after 10 terms. For his own part, Speaker Paul D. Ryan says he’s not leaving in the near term. And Donald Trump says he wants the Wisconsin Republican to stick around.

The will-he-or-won’t he game started early on Thursday in the wake of a HuffPost report that stated members were beginning to speculate Ryan would hang it up after the tax bill was done, a long time priority for the former Ways and Means Committee chairman. 

“The possibility that Ryan finishes the tax bill and decides he no longer wants to continue in Congress has begun to loom over internal Republican conversations,” HuffPost reported.

That was followed by a Politico story that stated no one could be found who believed Ryan wanted to stick around after the 2018 elections. 

“In recent interviews with three dozen people who know the speaker — fellow lawmakers, congressional and administration aides, conservative intellectuals and Republican lobbyists — not a single person believed Ryan will stay in Congress past 2018,” Politico reported.

At Ryan’s Thursday news conference, most of the questions concerned the tax conference committee report, timing and details about an upcoming continuing resolution to fund the government past Dec. 22 and even whether lawmakers should continue sleeping overnight in their offices, which the speaker and a few dozens other lawmakers do.

As Ryan concluded the presser and was leaving, a reporter yelled a question as he left about the rumors of his impending departure. 

“I’m not, no,” he said with a chuckle.

Meanwhile, at Thursday’s White House news briefing, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president, whom Ryan has had his differences with dating back to the 2016 presidential campaign, urged the speaker to please stay. 

Trump told Ryan if the report of Ryan’s departure was true, he would be “very unhappy,” Sanders said.

“I think it may have caught Speaker Ryan by surprise,” she said.

Kellie Mejdrich and John T. Bennett contributed to this story.

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