- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 14, 2017

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan shot down reports Thursday that he plans to retire from Congress, with his spokeswoman saying he’s not going anywhere “soon” and the White House saying President Trump begged him to stay another seven years.

Speculation about Mr. Ryan’s future has been growing on Capitol Hill, with one source telling The Washington Times earlier this week that the speaker was telling confidants he was considering leaving the top post after the tax overhaul was done.

The speculation reached a fevered pitch Thursday after Politico reported that Mr. Ryan plans to retire from Congress after next year’s election.

“This is pure speculation. As the speaker himself said today, he’s not going anywhere any time soon,” said Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong.

In the wake of the reports, Mr. Trump spoke to Mr. Ryan and said he hoped the reports weren’t true, said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

“The president did speak to the speaker [and] made sure that the speaker knew very clearly and in no uncertain terms that if that news was true, he would be very unhappy with it,” Mrs. Sanders said. “The speaker assured the president that those were not accurate reports, and that they look forward to working together for a long time to come.”

Asked if the report caught the White House by surprise, she replied, “It sounds like it may have caught Speaker Ryan by surprise.”

She said Mr. Trump is looking forward to working with Mr. Ryan “over the next hopefully seven, eight years.”

Mr. Ryan assumed the speakership in late 2015 after his predecessor then-Rep. John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, quit after years of clashing with conservative rebels in the House GOP conference.

Mr. Ryan’s retirement has been whispered about in the halls of Congress for months, but the report Thursday fanned speculation and set off jockeying among Republican leaders to succeed him as speaker.

But Mr. Ryan, at his weekly press conference, suggested there is more still to be done on his goal of fighting poverty.

He said in the next budget the GOP writes in 2018, lawmakers will try to tackle the looming surge of government spending on Social Security, Medicare and other entitlement programs, and the imbalance in the economy of a shortage of people willing and able to work to support those programs.

“Let’s change our welfare laws so we push and pull people out of poverty and into the workforce,” Mr. Ryan said. “Next year is going to be the year that we work on people. Next year is going to be the year we work on getting people into a better life.”

Stephen Dinan and Dave Boyer contributed to this article.

• S.A. Miller can be reached at smiller@washingtontimes.com.

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