By U.S. Representative Glenn Grothman
Whenever Congress is in session, a group of members gather in the Capitol Wednesday morning for Bible study. It was during our session, on April 11, that I received a call from my Chief of Staff saying that Paul Ryan wanted to have a conference call with the Wisconsin delegation later that morning.
When we concluded the Bible study, I walked back to my office and asked, “Why does Speaker Ryan want to have a conference call with all of us from the Wisconsin delegation?”
A few minutes later, Paul was telling us that he would not seek reelection in the fall, but would finish his term as Speaker of the House. He told us that his time in Congress had run its course and now, with kids in high school, he needed to be in Wisconsin more often to spend quality time with his family. This announcement didn’t particularly shock me. Paul has always been a family man, even before he was Speaker of the House.
I pride myself in staying in touch with my constituents by both communicating with them through the mail and by attending community events. It’s rare that a night goes by where I don’t attend a fish fry, Kiwanis club meeting or church fundraiser. Believe it or not, I remember meeting Paul at these and other local GOP events in the 1990s. I remember him as a bright young man who was not afraid of taking the lead and expressing his opinion, which was surprisingly well thought-out for his age.
After getting to know this young man who was interested in helping his community by volunteering, I was happy to see him take his public service commitment to the next level when he ran for Congress in 1999. I knew his passion for our home state would drive him to do great things, but I don’t think anyone predicted just how high his ceiling was.
When Speaker Boehner resigned in 2015 and House Republicans were looking for someone to take his job, Paul’s name was floated by more than one person. I remember being down in the members’ gym and seeing Paul hounded by other Congressmen to throw his hat in the ring for the Speaker job. Time after time, Paul would give them the same answer, that he was reluctant to take the position because that would mean more time on the road and less time in Wisconsin with his family.
In my view, a successful Speaker of the House must meet seven requirements. First, he must suffer fools gently. The Speaker deals with criticism on a daily basis from people both inside and outside of the Washington bubble and must have the ability to take the criticism along with the praise. Second, the Speaker must have the ability to forgive. Third, the Speaker must have native intelligence, meaning it has to be someone who has experience navigating the swampy waters of D.C. The fourth trait might seem like a given, but if you have spent time in Congress, you’ll know that it is hard to come by, and that’s having common sense. Fifth, the Speaker must have the ability to raise money for the party. Sixth, the Speaker can’t have enemies, and anyone who knows Paul knows that he is the most likable guy you will ever meet. And seventh, the Speaker of the House must be willing to work 90 hours per week. This was the one that concerned Paul the most because most of those 90 hours would not be spent in Wisconsin.
After a month of hearing the arguments put forth by his peers and endless speculation by the news media, Paul decided that he would accept the job of 54th Speaker of the House if elected by members of Congress.
To me, that illustrates the kind of guy Paul is. He wants to be a team player. Paul made personal sacrifices by selflessly giving up time with his family for the good of the country. For these reasons, I knew his tenure as Speaker wouldn’t last forever.
Paul’s time as “Speaker Ryan” may not have been the longest, but the accomplishments will be felt for generations. In addition to passing legislation that will increase support for career and technical education, hold the Veterans Administration (VA) accountable, roll back burdensome Dodd-Frank regulations that will now allow local banks to better serve their communities, mount an unprecedented attack on the opioid abuse epidemic and other bills that have allowed the stock market to reach record highs and unemployment reach record lows, Speaker Ryan ushered in historic tax reform that is already providing much-needed relief for middle class families. Just look at your pay stub this month compared to the same time last year, the vast majority of Wisconsinites will see a decrease in federal withholding and an increase in take-home pay.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) was the largest reform to our tax code since the 1980s and it has not only allowed Americans to keep more of their hard-earned money, but it has also resulted in billions of dollars in bonuses, raises and companies investing in their employees through training and benefits programs.
This legislation was given the title of House Resolution (H.R.) 1, which is significant in and of itself. Each session of Congress, H.R. 1 is reserved for the party in power’s main legislative goal. Remember when you got your driver’s license and you wanted to buy a new Corvette but could only afford a “sensible” used car? H.R. 1 is like that Corvette. You want it. Your friends want it. But it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be driving it. Speaker Ryan managed to get the “Corvette,” tax cuts for the middle class; a feat not easily achieved.
I believe that Speaker Ryan will be forever known as the family-first Speaker. For this reason, I think it is fitting that his signature achievement is a bill that will help other families by allowing them to keep more of their hard-earned money, all while growing the economy and enabling Wisconsinites to realize the American dream.
From the beginning, he was very vocal about not wanting the duties of Speaker of the House to cut into his time in Wisconsin. Now, he is acting on that wish and will be spending more time with family and friends.
Paul will be successful in whatever endeavor the future holds for him. But more importantly than the job he decides to take, I wish him luck with his wife and kids. In his retirement from politics, I’m sure he will fill some of his free time by continuing to influence the discourse in Washington. He is too talented not to. I have Paul’s cell phone number and he has mine. I look forward to continuing to seek his advice and counsel in the future.
Rep. Glenn Grothman represents Wisconsin’s 6th Congressional District.