Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) was first elected to Congress when he was just 28 years old. Now, at age 48, he is leaving office having served as Speaker of the House for the past three years.
With his departure from office, many have started to reflect on his political career and there have been a lot of mixed reactions.
Here’s a look at some of the highs and lows of Speaker Ryan’s time in office:
Speaker Ryan helped to usher in one of the largest successes for Republicans since President Donald Trump took office: the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.
Passed just before the new year started, Ryan’s work on tax reform was a long time coming. He had made reforming the American tax system a top priority throughout his political career.
Following the Tax Act, the American economy took off. Several private companies turned around and invested their tax savings into their workers. Under the new policies, unemployment rates plummeted, wages went up, and GDP growth skyrocketed.
While Trump may have been the one at the table handling negotiations with foreign leaders, Ryan was working on the Hill to ensure that the president’s words had the weight of Congress.
Under his speakership, sanctions were placed against Russia, North Korea, and Iran, proving American influence in building a more stable world. These sanctions forced Kim Jong Un to the table and sent a wake-up call to the Iranian leadership after Trump pulled America out of the Iran deal.
A major part of Trump’s plan to make America great again was to rebuild the military that had suffered under former President Barack Obama’s sequester.
This year, Ryan helped usher in a massive funding bill for the military. As IJR previously reported, the bill provided more than $700 billion to fund the military, including the largest pay raise the men and women of the military had seen in nine years.
One of the most blatant failures of Ryan’s plans for Congress was reforming entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. At the Midwest Conservative Summit this spring, Ryan told The Weekly Standard’s Steve Haye, “The one thing that got away from us, which is my signature issue, is entitlement reform.”
According to Motley Fool, Social Security will cease to exist as it does today by 2034 because of the changing age demographics. As the boomers continue to retire, the ratio of workers to retired people will continue to become more unbalanced until the funding runs out.
This isn’t a surprise to anyone in Congress. They all know that it is failing, but it is incredibly unpopular to talk about cutting Social Security, so most politicians would rather leave their head in the sand. Ryan stuck his head up to shout a warning about the pending failure, but he failed to make any real change.
As Fox News‘ Laura Ingraham hit on her show Tuesday night, Ryan is a big part of the reason that the battle for the border wall has been pushed to right before the new year, instead of being dealt with earlier.
Republicans have been talking about the need for immigration reforms and wall for a long time, but the speaker pushed the debate off until the last minute. This, of course, is not just on the shoulders of Ryan, but that doesn’t completely wash his hands of the situation.
Of the wall funding issue, Ryan said, “We’ll figure out how to do it in December.”
Well, it’s December and it looks much more likely that Americans will see a government shutdown before they see one additional penny go toward building the wall.
Relationship with President Trump
Although President Trump sent Ryan his best wishes when he announced his retirement from elected office, they haven’t always had a great relationship.
Speaker Paul Ryan is a truly good man, and while he will not be seeking re-election, he will leave a legacy of achievement that nobody can question. We are with you Paul!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 11, 2018
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Ryan did everything in his power to distance himself from Trump. Ryan launched one of the loudest criticisms of Trump after the leaked Access Hollywood tape caught Trump making some unflattering comments about grabbing women.
Of the tape, Ryan slammed the president, saying:
“I am sickened by what I heard today. Women are to be championed and revered, not objectified. I hope Mr. Trump treats this situation with the seriousness it deserves and works to demonstrate to the country that he has greater respect for women than this clip suggests.”
This comment was made just one month before the election and Trump was not a fan of his decision to speak out. Trump hit back on Twitter, writing:
The Democrats have a corrupt political machine pushing crooked Hillary Clinton. We have Paul Ryan, always fighting the Republican nominee!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 16, 2016
Their relationship didn’t warm up too much from that moment. Trump continued to be frustrated when Ryan spoke out against him.
Paul Ryan should be focusing on holding the Majority rather than giving his opinions on Birthright Citizenship, something he knows nothing about! Our new Republican Majority will work on this, Closing the Immigration Loopholes and Securing our Border!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 31, 2018
Ryan’s rocky relationship with Trump didn’t help him gain favorability on either side. He was heavily criticized by some on the right who felt like he didn’t do enough for Trump’s agenda, while others on the left claimed he did too much for Trump.
Although Ryan may be leaving with mixed reactions, he is the only speaker to have served under Trump’s unique White House leadership. It remains to be seen how the Republican minority in the House will function.
For an IJR Blue response to Paul Ryan’s farewell, click here.