Retirement Avalanche Continues: Another House Republican Announces He's Finished

House Speaker Paul Ryan is finished. He’s done with public life. He said he’s not willing to be a weekend dad anymore and wants to spend more time with his family, which is commendable. But let’s be honest here: it’s a terrible signal to send in an election year. It also adds to the problem that has made the GOP position for the 2018 elections shakier by the week: retirements. Since the Trump tax bill became law in December of 2017, there has been an avalanche of retirements. And now we have another: Dennis Ross (R-FL) has said he’s calling it quits too (via Tampa Bay Times):

Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland, told his staff this morning he is retiring.

"Eight years takes its time on you. … There's got to be an exit strategy at some point," Ross said in an interview, noting he planned on serving 10 years, or five terms.

Ross, a former state House member, said he was informing staff about his decision and looked up at Fox News to see Speaker Paul Ryan had decided to step down and that he was unaware of those plans.

He dismissed the suggestion that his retirement had anything to do with a possible Democratic wave, though the open seat will now become a target, while setting off a scramble among Republican hopefuls. 

Some retirements could be understood, but many have flipped solid GOP districts into toss-ups this year. If anything, these retirements have caused more damage to the GOP's election prospects than the lack of progress on fully repealing Obamacare. Luckily, the GOP has a tax reform bill that is geared towards the working and middle classes, which has benefited scores of American businesses and over three million workers. Still, the retirements could be seen as the silent killer for the GOP come November (via NYT):

The good news for Democrats is that several of the Republicans retiring from the most competitive districts were particularly strong incumbents. They are longtime, moderate incumbents with a history of running far ahead of the national party in their district. Many won re-election without any serious challenge, even when Barack Obama won their districts in 2008 or 2012.

In a strongly Democratic political environment like this one, Washington’s Dave Reichert and New Jersey’s Frank LoBiondo were arguably the two most valuable possible retirement for the Democrats. Democrats got both.

In a more competitive national environment, Florida’s Ileana Ros-Lehtinen might have been the most valuable retirement, and she is leaving, too. Pennsylvania’s Charlie Dent is another valuable retirement for Democrats. In some cases, the retirements have moved safely Republican districts all the way to tossups.

What about Ryan’s district? Well, NBC News seems to think it’s in play:

Ironworker and Army vet Randy Bryce (often referred to by his twitter moniker @Ironstache) is viewed as a good match for this industrial district. He's well-funded and well-organized, too; he raised $2.1 million this last quarter, outraising Ryan for the 3-month period and putting his total haul at about $4.75 million. Schoolteacher Cathy Myers is also running in the Democratic primary.

The DCCC recently put the race in their red-to-blue program, which directs resources to the country’s most competitive takeover opportunities for the party.

The district has been a competitive battleground.

In 2008, Obama won it, 51 percent to 48 percent.

In 2012, with Ryan on the ticket, Mitt Romney only won this district by five points, 52 percent to Obama’s 47 percent.

In 2016, the margin for Trump was 10 points; 52 percent to Clinton’s 42 percent.

Republicans do have some time to find a Ryan replacement. The filing deadline in Wisconsin is June 1.

Others aren’t so optimistic about Democrats’ chances for picking this seat up.


Paul Ryan Says He Won’t Seek Re-Election: Reports

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Rumors have swirled for months on whether he would step down.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) reportedly plans to tell colleagues Wednesday morning that he will not seek re-election this year, capping off months of rumors that he was mulling stepping down from his leadership post. 

Axios reported that Ryan would soon announce that he would not run in November, citing confidants. The Atlantic and Politico also confirmed that he plans to tell GOP House members Wednesday morning.

Republicans face an uphill battle in November’s midterm elections, with dozens of competitive seats and a record number of resignations and retirements, and Democrats eager to make the election a referendum on both Ryan and President Donald Trump.

Speculation circulated in December over whether Ryan would leave the top House job in 2018 after GOP efforts to push through a massive tax bill ― one of Ryan’s legislative priorities ― or after the midterm elections.

In late March, Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.) told a reporter that rumors had been swirling around the capitol that Ryan would soon step down and be replaced by Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.).

“You know, [former Speaker] John Boehner said the thing: ‘Hey, I checked all of the boxes I thought were important and I’m moving on to whatever else,’” Amodei told Nevada Newsmakers, referencing what he thought could be Ryan’s decision to leave office.

In response to those reports, aides to both Scalise and Ryan adamantly denied the rumors, and Scalise’s spokeswoman said the lawmaker “fully” supported his colleague to remain speaker.

Ryan reluctantly took on the job of House speaker following the abrupt departure of his predecessor, John Boehner (R-Ohio), in 2015. The Wisconsin lawmaker had a tumultuous tenure, faced with infighting among various factions of the GOP caucus and the political rise of Trump, for which he received much criticism, particularly for his often tepid responses to Trump’s incendiary comments.

But Ryan secured a major win late last year with the passage of an unpopular tax bill he had long touted.

“When people see their withholding improving, when they see the jobs occurring, when they see a simpler tax code, that’s what’s going to produce the results,” Ryan said of the bill’s critics in December. “And results are going to be what makes this popular.”

Twitter users mocked Ryan in February after he used an anecdote about a school secretary in Pennsylvania who saw her pay go up by $1.50 a week to suggest the tax bill was working.

“She said [that] will more than cover her Costco membership for the year,” he tweeted.



Trump Reportedly Narrows In On Rosenstein Amid Frustration With Mueller Probe

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The president also reportedly has weighed firing special counsel Robert Mueller.

Reports that President Donald Trump is considering firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein surfaced this week in the wake of FBI raids on the offices and hotel room of Michael Cohen, the president’s personal attorney.

The raids, which Rosenstein reportedly signed off on personally, came as a result of a referral by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. The raids had the president fuming on Monday and Tuesday.

Trump was reportedly weighing a number of potentially drastic options, including firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, CNN reported Tuesday, citing multiple unnamed sources familiar with the matter. But officials said the most probable target, if the president acts, would be Rosenstein.

The New York Times also cited several people briefed on the Cohen investigation who said Trump was privately discussing whether or not to fire Rosenstein in the wake of the Cohen raids.

According to a source close to Rosenstein’s office, since the raids, the White House has not put any pressure on the deputy attorney general to resign, nor has the White House indicated to the deputy AG’s office that Rosenstein will be fired. 

At a military leadership meeting on Monday, Trump also openly discussed the idea of firing Mueller.

“Why don’t I just fire Mueller?” Trump asked, repeating a reporter’s question. “Well, I think it’s a disgrace what’s going on. We’ll see what happens, but I think it’s really a sad situation .... Many people have said you should fire him. Again, they found nothing, and in finding nothing, that’s a big statement.”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Tuesday that Trump “certainly believes he has the power” to fire Mueller.

Republicans have warned Trump against firing the special counsel, a course of action Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Tuesday said “would be suicide for the president.”

The president also renewed his critique of Sessions this week over the attorney general’s decision last year to recuse himself from the Russia investigation.

Rosenstein has overseen the investigation since Sessions’ recusal and has been frequently criticized by Trump. Rosenstein appointed Mueller to take over the Russia inquiry after the president fired former FBI Director James Comey last year. 

Trump has relentlessly attacked Sessions, Rosenstein and the Justice Department. He has twice weighed firing Mueller ― first in June 2017 and again, the Times reported on Tuesday, last December.

The president also reportedly considered firing Rosenstein last summer around the same time that he considered firing Mueller.

Democrats, meanwhile, said they would treat firing Rosenstein as equally bad as firing Mueller.

“I’d like to make something crystal clear to the president: Mr. President, any attempt to remove Rod Rosenstein will create the exact same constitutional crisis as if you fired special counsel Bob Mueller,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters on Tuesday.

At the root of Trump’s anger this time is Monday’s raids, which sought information in Cohen’s office and hotel room regarding payments to two women who have alleged that they had affairs with Trump more than 10 years ago. Agents seized documents relating to a $130,000 payment Cohen made to former adult film star Stormy Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, as well as emails, tax records and business documents, according to the Times.

They also were reportedly looking for information about Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who claims she had a nearly yearlong affair with Trump in 2006. American Media Inc., parent company of The National Enquirer, reportedly paid McDougal $150,000 for the rights to her story and then didn’t run one, which is thought to have been an attempt to silence her. The company’s CEO, David Pecker, is known to be a friend of Trump’s.




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