After months of speculation, House Speaker Paul Ryan announced Wednesday that he will not seek re-election come November, ending a two-decade career in Congress.
“It’s been a wild ride, but it’s been a journey well worth taking to be able to do my part to strengthen the American idea,” Ryan said. “That pursuit is never ending. Much work remains, but I like to think I have done my part, my little part in history, to set us on a better course.”
Rumors of Ryan’s imminent departure have swirled around Washington since at least December, when Politico reported that those who knew Ryan thought it unlikely he’d remain in Congress after 2018. Still, The New York Times reported Wednesday that his decision was unexpected.
“He had just hosted a donor retreat last week in Texas, and most officials believed he would not leave until after November,” according to the newspaper.
At the Capitol on Wednesday, Ryan said he decided not to seek re-election in order to focus on his role as a husband and father.
Ryan was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1999, representing Wisconsin’s first district. He was elected as House Speaker in 2015, after then-House Speaker John Boehner retired.
“It’s almost hard to believe but I have been a member of Congress for almost two decades,” he said Wednesday. “My kids weren’t even born when I was first elected. Our oldest was 13 years old when I became speaker. Now, all three of our kids are teenagers, and one thing I’ve learned about teenagers is their idea of an ideal weekend is not necessarily to spend all of their time with their parents.
“What I realize is, if I am here for one more term, my kids will only have ever known me as a weekend dad. I just can’t let that happen.”
Ryan’s father died when the congressman was 16 -- the same age as the congressman’s daughter, Elizabeth Ann.
“I just don’t want to be one of those people looking back on my life thinking I (wish I) spent more time with my kids when I know if I spend another term (in office), they will only know me as a weekend father,” he said.
Ryan’s father struggled with alcoholism and had distanced himself from his family before his death, according to a 2014 report from The Associated Press.
The loss heavily influenced Ryan’s view on family.
“One of the reasons why I’ve always passed elected leadership positions up in the House — you know, speaker, leader, all the things people ask you to run for — is because it takes you away from your family even more,” Ryan said in 2014 while promoting his book, “The Way Forward: Renewing the America Idea,” according to the AP.
“Having not had a dad for a long time, it brings you much closer to your kids and your family.”
Ryan will retire from Congress at the end of his term in January.
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