WASHINGTON — Speaker Paul D. Ryan announced Wednesday that he will not seek re-election in November, ending a brief stint atop the House and signaling the peril that the Republican majority faces in the midterm elections.
Mr. Ryan said he will serve until the end of this Congress in January, which will mark 20 years in Congress. He insisted he will be “leaving this majority in good hands with what I believe is a very bright future.”
But his retirement, at the age of 48, is sure to kick off a succession battle for the leadership of the House Republican Conference, likely between the House majority leader, Kevin McCarthy of California, and the House majority whip, Steve Scalise of Louisiana. And it could also trigger another wave of retirements among Republicans not eager to face angry voters in the fall and taking their cue from Mr. Ryan.
As if on cue, Representative Dennis Ross, Republican of Florida, announced his retirement an hour after Mr. Ryan.
Mr. Ryan’s intentions were first reported by Axios.
Mr. Ryan’s decision to quit caught many in the party by surprise. He had just hosted a donor retreat last week in Texas and most officials believed he would not leave until after November.
He pledged that he would help fellow Republicans extensively in the 2018 campaign and said he would continue raising money at a powerful pace, according to two lawmakers in the room. Mr. Ryan has become the party’s most important fund-raiser in the House and Republicans have been counting on him to help them collect and spend tens of millions of dollars defending their majority this fall.
He pointed to the recently enacted overhaul of the tax code and increased military spending as his signal accomplishments.
Growing emotional at points, Mr. Ryan said family considerations weighed heavily on his retirement, explaining that his daughter was 13 when he became speaker and he did not want to be a remote figure in her teenage years.
“The truth is, it is easy for it to take over everything in your life and you can’t just let that happen because there are other things in life that can be fleeting as well: Namely your time as a husband and a father,” he told reporters.
But he has also been forced to answer for a constant stream of provocations and slights from President Trump, and his retirement announcement was no exception. Asked what should be done if the president has the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, fired, he answered, “I have no reason to believe that is going to happen. I’ve been talking to people in the White House about it.”