When Speaker of the House Paul Ryan announced on Wednesday that he’d be leaving his congressional seat at the end of this term, he claimed it was only because he wanted to focus on his family, and that he was confident that he’d be leaving the Republican House majority in good shape.
That, of course, is total bullshit. In fact, the GOP is freaking out, vultures are already circling around Ryan’s still-warm political corpse, and Ryan isn’t helping matters by giving wildly tone-deaf interviews about the whole thing.
It’s no wonder Republicans are very mad at him for quitting.
“His decision to retire today is not helpful in the overall picture of re-election of a House Republican majority,” former Republican congressman Thomas M. Reynolds told the New York Times. “Nobody is saying this is over just yet, but there is a very significant change in the dynamic based on his choice to retire.”
Despite Ryan’s promise to stay in his role until his term ends in January, some Republicans seem to want him to fuck off ASAP and install a new speaker—presumably either House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy or House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who are already lobbying for the job.
“[The] scuttlebutt is that Paul will have to step down from [the] speakership soon,” a GOP source “close to leadership” told Axios’ Jonathan Swan and Mike Allen. “Members won’t follow a lame duck, he’ll have no leverage to cut deals, and the last thing they need in this environment is six months of palace intrigue and everyone stabbing everyone else in the back.”
But Ryan’s departure doesn’t just risk hurting the GOP’s hopes of continuing to harm poor people and people of color. It also sends a psychic signal to other Republicans that they should flee the scene of the crime too.
Adding to the GOP’s Ryan-induced angst is the fact that his role as a relatively stable speaker meant big bucks for the GOP. As Kentucky congressman Thomas Massie noted to Politico, “I don’t see how [Ryan’s speakership] can be maintained. It’s an unstable situation, eight months of a lame duck speaker? The donors are going to want to meet the next guy or gal, right? It just seems unstable to me.”
Ryan has gone on a media tour to defend himself and calm the waters. So how’s that going? Well, listen to this answer he gave CBS News’ Gayle King when she asked him why the Republicans are so white and male:
You heard correctly. Paul Ryan, when asked why his top leadership team was all white men, responded by saying that he’s mentoring a black woman. Cool!
So, to recap. Ryan’s retirement means:
- A potential GOP knife fight to fill Ryan’s shoes.
- A tacit thumbs-up to any other Republican who might be thinking of jumping ship.
- The potential loss of a major pipeline of conservative donor money.
- Cringeworthy interviews that only highlight how out of touch the GOP is.
Nice work, Paul!