This afternoon, Speaker Paul D. Ryan made his closing remarks after over 20 years of serving as a member in the House of Representatives, first elected in 1998. Most recently completing his service as Speaker of the House a job he never asked for but rather was pushed to take the post by his colleagues.
The Congressman from southeastern Wisconsin, who did not run for reelection on 2018, is most notably remembered for his dedication and determination in reforming the tax code which many argue his landmark achievement being the championing of The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed in the current 115th Congressional session.
Today at 1p.m. ET, Congressman Trey Gowdy gave a moving testament to the character of Ryan while later introducing the Speaker of The House to give his final statements. Ryan's full remarks can be viewed below.
In his farewell address, Ryan makes clear that two longterm goals of his were not completed; both reforming the U.S. entitlement program and controlling a growing national debt.
“I acknowledge plainly that my ambitions for entitlement reform have outpaced the political reality and I consider this our greatest unfinished business,” Ryan stated.
“Ultimately, solving this problem will require a greater degree of political will than exists today. I regret that.”
On the Accomplishments of this Congress:
Three years ago, when we last gathered in this hall, we began a great journey. To set our nation on a better path. To move our economy from stagnation to growth. To restore our military might.
And we have kept our promises.
We have taken on some of the biggest challenges of our time, and made a great and lasting difference in the trajectory of this country.
Certainly one Congress cannot solve all that ails us. Not every outcome has been perfect.
But that is our great system at work. And I am proud of what we have achieved together to make this a stronger and more prosperous country.
I leave here as convinced as I was at the start that we face no challenge which cannot be overcome by putting pen to paper on sound policy. By addressing head-on the problems of the day.
On The State of Politics:
The state of politics these days is another question, and frankly one I don’t have an answer for.
Our culture is meant to be shaped not by our political institutions, but by the mediating institutions of civil society, of the community.
These are the places where we come together with people of different backgrounds—churches, charities, teams, PTA meetings. It is where we build up our social capital, that currency which keeps us rooted to where we live, and how we live with one another.
Rediscovering that human connection is one lane on the road back to aspiration and inclusion as the guiding influences in public life.
As I look ahead to the future, this much I know: Our complex problems are solvable.
That is to say, our problems are solvable if our politics will allow it. (Speaker.Gov)
Paul Ryan in farewell speech: "I acknowledge plainly that my ambitions for entitlement reform have outpaced the political reality and I consider this our greatest unfinished business."— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) December 19, 2018
He calls programs Social Security and Medicare "deeply out of balance and unsustainable."
Three years ago, we began a great journey to set our nation on a better path. Now, my season of service is coming to a close. Tune in live soon for my Farewell Address as Speaker of the House: https://t.co/RrNzrxPmYU— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) December 19, 2018
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tweeted his appreciation to the Speaker before his farewell address:
For the past three years, it’s been my distinct pleasure to partner so closely with @SpeakerRyan. His bold leadership and faith in free enterprise have helped create a brighter future for millions of American workers and job creators.https://t.co/fgNP2xKA3v— Leader McConnell (@senatemajldr) December 19, 2018
Speaker Ryan responded:
Thank you, Mitch. It’s been an honor to work with you to make America more prosperous and free.— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) December 19, 2018
Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the current House GOP Conference Chairwomen, also shared her appreciation for the tireless work of the Speaker:
America stands on the shoulders of the giants who have gone before us because they put country first. That’s what @SpeakerRyan has modeled for all of us. Watch as he gives his Farewell Address. https://t.co/D1QmeXfiBJ— CathyMcMorrisRodgers (@cathymcmorris) December 19, 2018
Townhall editor, Guy Benson also tweeted his appreciation for the Speaker who spent his year on Capitol Hill "pursuing solutions to complicated problems" while commending his "earnest" and hardworking attributes.
I know it's fashionable to kick dirt on @SpeakerRyan as he exits, but count me out. I believe he's an earnest person who's spent years pursuing solutions to complicated problems -- taking risks & incurring wrath along the way. Here's his farewell address:https://t.co/C2NDoAalZS— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) December 19, 2018
Many on Capitol Hill cheered in appreciation for the Speaker today, but not all statistics point to the Speaker making as much progress as expected. Critics point out that the national debt continues to rise while there is continued uncertainty around the world surrounding foreign affairs and "free trade."
Today Bloomberg reported:
Today, with Ryan preparing to retire from Congress, the annual federal budget deficit is again approaching $1 trillion. Over his two decades in Congress, the total national debt increased from less than $6 trillion to nearly $22 trillion. Yet the years of his speakership saw no new foreign conflict or recession that forced the government to live beyond its means. The problem was a Republican-led Congress that pushed a small-government agenda only in part. When President Trump took office, he embraced tax cuts but rejected structural spending overhauls. But even he complained about the spending bill Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell brought him last year, which met Democrats’ demands for more domestic spending to keep up with the $716 billion Republicans pledged for defense in 2019 without imposing discipline in other areas to compensate.
The GOP’s departure from Ryan’s professed brand of conservatism is all but complete, with Republicans often accepting, while occasionally bemoaning, Trump’s withdrawal from fiscal restraint, free trade, and public civility. The increasing rancor of American politics makes it almost impossible to conjure the political courage necessary to make the tough compromises that would reverse these spending trends, which get more complicated to address the longer they continue. “It’s a great irony that not just Paul Ryan but Republicans who claim they care so much about the deficit have now presided over huge increases in the budget deficit,” says Chris Van Hollen, now a Maryland senator, who was the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee in 2013, when Ryan was chairman. “It’s going to take, unfortunately, a long time to get back on a path to fiscal sustainability, because they just blew another $2 trillion hole in our debt.”
Yesterday, in a series of tweets, Ryan's office posted a six-part video series that highlights the accomplishments and achievements over his time as Speaker:
Twenty years before it became law, tax reform was just an idea. This is how it all began. pic.twitter.com/HAYdCBFfDK— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) December 18, 2018
It was 2007. House Republicans had just lost the majority, and I was sitting in a deer hunting tree stand one Saturday morning. That’s when I decided to go big and put together a completely comprehensive plan to update the nation’s entitlement system and reform the tax code. pic.twitter.com/NNafZREowl— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) December 18, 2018
There is no way that that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act would be the law of the land if we had just started last year. It took years of work in the @WaysandMeansGOP committee, and that’s the reason we were able to hit the landing in 2017. pic.twitter.com/sewdrCufWG— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) December 18, 2018
Becoming Speaker was bittersweet because I was leaving the job I always wanted: being in charge of tax policy as chairman of @WaysAndMeansGOP. So as Speaker, I did everything I could to pave the way for real, comprehensive tax reform. pic.twitter.com/WYAMMb35RN— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) December 18, 2018
Once in a generation, you can convince politicians that the need for reform outweighs the needs of the special interests. That’s exactly what happened when we passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, one year ago this week. pic.twitter.com/7KdvMxgmxR— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) December 18, 2018
As a kid from Janesville, Wisconsin, I never thought I'd work on Capitol Hill, let alone be a member of Congress. I feel very blessed to have had these opportunities to make a real, positive difference in the lives of so many Americans. pic.twitter.com/NbLP9vg05Y— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) December 18, 2018
Today The Hill reported:
In recent weeks, Ryan has attended his portrait unveiling for the House Budget Committee, which he once led. He accepted a top civilian award from Defense Secretary James Mattis. And during appearances at The Washington Post, CBS and AEI, Ryan lamented partisan “tribalism” and “identity politics” as a major cause of today’s toxic political environment.
It’s all part of Ryan’s long farewell tour. And it’s fueled speculation about whether Ryan, Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate in 2012, might finally run for the White House himself in six years.
But Ryan’s focus on legacy preservation is being overshadowed by a looming government shutdown that, if it happens at week’s end, could represent a black mark on — and an unwanted bookend to — a remarkable 20-year career in Congress.