Paul Ryan's retirement means Congress is 'effectively closed for business'

  • House Speaker Paul Ryan announced he will not run for reelection in November and retire from Congress at the end of the term.

  • The move likely dooms any chance for a major legislative push before the midterm elections.

House Speaker Paul Ryan's decision against seeking reelection not only leaves a void at the top of the Republican Party. It also likely crushes any hopes of a major legislative push before the 2018 midterms elections.

Policy analysts say Ryan's retirement is a reminder of just how quiet Congress is expected to be before the much-anticipated elections in November.

With little consensus between parties and few major policy pushes expected from Republican leadership, the next seven months may pass with no major legislative changes.

"This does not change the near-term legislative realities at all," Isaac Boltansky, a policy analyst at the research firm Compass Point, said Wednesday. "The 115th Congress has been, and will remain, effectively closed for business."

For his part, Ryan suggested the GOP still plans to try and push through various legislative goals — such as entitlement reform — before the end of the term.

Ryan said at a press conference on Wednesday that the Senate's inability to take up an entitlement reform bill that passed the House was disappointing, but he would continue to work toward that goal.

"I feel from all the budgets that I passed, normalizing entitlement reform, pushing the cause of entitlement reform, and the House passing entitlement reform, I am very proud of that fact," Ryan said. "But yeah, of course more work needs to be done, and it really is entitlements."

Entitlement reform, the push to cut spending on major programs such as Medicaid and Social Security, has been on the top of Ryan's wish list since the start of his congressional career.

Rep. Mark Walker, chair of the influential Republican Study Committee, encouraged Ryan's push.

"If you know Paul at all, and his character, he's going to continue to push hard. This is effective in January and I think he's going to work very hard on that and he's going to go for the trifecta: rebuild the military, tax reform, and reform entitlements," Walker told Business Insider.

Given that any major entitlement change would need support in the Senate from Democrats, the talk from Ryan and Republicans is likely just wishful thinking, said Greg Valliere, chief global strategist at Horizon Investments.

Ryan's retirement is "a de facto concession that Ryan knows the GOP agenda has stalled," Valliere said in a note to clients. "He helped win tax cuts and regulatory reform, but Ryan's other great goal — entitlement reform — has no chance."

Outside of entitlement reform, other legislative pushes — such as President Donald Trump's promised infrastructure package — remain long shots. The recent budget deal pushed back must-pass deadlines on items like the debt ceiling, leaving Congress few vehicles with which to attach preferred policy items.

The possibility of a protracted leadership battle at the top of the House GOP conference could sidetrack any major fight over a policy push.

Already, the current Congress has been at a historically slow pace in passing legislation outside of the tax bill. According to an analysis by Politico, the Senate has taken 25 roll call votes on non-binding amendments during the current Congress, down from 154 of the same type of votes at the same point during the previous Congress.

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