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Citing No Regrets About Retiring, Paul Ryan Bets Kevin McCarthy Will Replace Him

Outgoing speaker will not rule out a future presidential bid

Speaker Paul D. Ryan said Thursday he has no regrets about retiring. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Speaker Paul D. Ryan said Thursday he has no regrets about retiring. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s Thursday interview with David M. Rubenstein, president of the Economic Club of Washington, D.C., started with an admission that he has no regrets — “none whatsoever” — about retiring. It then diverted into a wide array of topics including his replacement, future plans and policy goals for his last few months in office.

The Wisconsin Republican reiterated his preference that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy succeed him as speaker when asked about his replacement.

Kevin McCarthy is my goal, my bet and I think he’s going to be the next speaker of the House,” Ryan said.

That’s far from certain given conservatives may block McCarthy from ascending like they did when he sought the gavel in 2015, which is ultimately what led to Ryan reluctantly becoming speaker.

Watch: Ryan Talks Next Speaker, Mueller Investigation and His Own Possible Run for President

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Ryan has frequently said that the speakership is a job he never wanted. Asked Thursday to pick his favorite role in Congress between speaker and chairman of the Budget and Ways and Means committees, Ryan unsurprisingly selected the tax-writing panel even though it was the shortest role he held of the three.

“I’m a policy guy,” he said.

Despite that preference, Ryan admitted he had considered running for president in the past, but ultimately decided against it. When prompted, he wouldn’t rule out considering a future presidential bid but he suggested it was unlikely.

“You never say never to such things, but I really do not have it in my mind,” Ryan said, noting he “certainly” would never consider such a move while his kids, who will all be in high school next year, are home.

“I’ll be a has-been by then,” Ryan said of the time roughly four years from now when all three of his children will have left the nest.

As Ryan looks forward to living full time in Janesville next year after he relinquishes the speaker’s gavel, there will be some adjustments.

“I haven’t driven a car in three years; it’s a little strange,” he said.

The speaker is currently driven around by his Capitol Police security detail. But his license was going to expire so he recently renewed it.

Ryan doesn’t currently have a car, as the wiring of his old Chevy Suburban was eaten by a family of woodchucks that decided to make their home in the underbelly of his car. He said his plan is to get a Ford F-150.

In other lighthearted moments of the interview, Ryan noted that he used to live in a group house with former Rep. Patrick J. Toomey, who is now the junior senator from Pennsylvania, before he decided it would be more efficient to sleep in his office.

On more serious notes, Ryan talked about trade and taxes and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Ryan said he was not caught up with morning developments at the NATO summit but noted, “If the goal is we have a commitment [from other counties] to get to 2 percent, that’s fantastic,” referring to member countries spending 2 percent of the gross domestic product on defense.

Regarding trade, Ryan reiterated his view that tariffs will not resolve trade disputes. He said it is reasonable that President Donald Trump prefers bilateral trade agreements to multilateral ones like the Trans Pacific Partnership but said it’s urgent agreements get negotiated so the United States doesn’t get left out.

On taxes Ryan confirmed there will be an effort to pass a “tax reform 2.0″ bill before the midterms, as well as a separate technical corrections bill during the lame-duck session after the election.

Ryan talked about the House’s two failed immigration votes last month. He noted that while he rarely casts votes as speaker he voted to support the measure that was dubbed the compromise bill “to show this is where I think we ultimately land on an immigration solution.”

Asked whether an immigration overhaul is definitely off the table for this year, Ryan said he didn’t know.

“There could be,” he said. “We’re waiting on some court rulings.”

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