Ryan could retire after 2018 midterms: report

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanHouse Ethics Committee informs Duncan Hunter he can no longer vote after guilty plea Duncan Hunter pleads guilty after changing plea Trump campaign steps up attacks on Biden MORE (R-Wis.) is reportedly considering retiring after the 2018 midterm elections.

Politico reported Thursday that Ryan has told his “closest confidants” that his current term as Speaker will be his last.

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According to Politico interviews with three dozen of Ryan’s colleagues, aides, lobbyists and allies, “not a single person believed Ryan will stay in Congress past 2018.”

Ryan told reporters on Thursday that he is not planning on leaving the House.

Asked at the end of his weekly press conference Thursday whether he was leaving Congress “soon,” Ryan chuckled and replied as he walked off the stage: “I’m not, no.”

Speculation about Ryan's future has swirled for months. Last month, several Republicans told The Hill they thought Ryan could be serving his last term of Speaker, particularly if Republicans succeed in passing tax reform.

“There is certainly a school of thought that says ‘leave on a high note,’ ” a GOP lawmaker close to Ryan told The Hill in November. “And passage of tax reform would be a high note for a guy that’s spent 18 years in Congress working on it.”

Congressional Republicans are working to get tax legislation to President TrumpDonald John TrumpPence: It's not a "foregone conclusion" that lawmakers impeach Trump FBI identifies Pensacola shooter as Saudi Royal Saudi Air Force second lieutenant Trump calls Warren 'Pocahontas,' knocks wealth tax MORE’s desk by Christmas.

Several top GOP lawmakers have appeared to be positioning themselves for a bid to replace Ryan if he steps down.

A few of the possible Republicans to replace the Speaker include Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyCNN Pelosi town hall finishes third in cable news ratings race, draws 1.6M Economy adds 266K jobs in November, blowing past expectations The Hill's Morning Report — Pelosi makes it official: Trump will be impeached MORE (Calif.), who dropped his bid for the speakership two years ago, Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseRepublicans disavow GOP candidate who said 'we should hang' Omar Nunes accuses Democrats of promoting 'conspiracy theories' Pressure grows on House GOP leaders to hold line ahead of impeachment trial MORE (La.), who almost died after a mass shooting in June, GOP Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersIsraeli, Palestinian business leaders seek Trump boost for investment project The Suburban Caucus: Solutions for America's suburbs Shimkus announces he will stick with plan to retire after reconsidering MORE (Wash.) and Rep. Mark WalkerBradley (Mark) Mark WalkerThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democrats worry about diversity on next debate stage North Carolina congressman says he won't seek reelection after redistricting NC rep explores Tillis primary challenge MORE (N.C.), chairman of the Republican Study Committee caucus.

Tax reform has been a long-time goal of Ryan's, and some GOP lawmakers told The Hill earlier this year that the Speaker could choose to go out on top if Republicans are able to enact their legislation by Christmas.

“Maybe Paul slides out of the job if it passes, too. That may actually be more likely than leaving on failure,” one GOP lawmaker close to Ryan said.

Ryan seemed to be growing weary of Washington even before he became Speaker in 2015. He told the National Journal in 2014 that he would not be in Congress another 10 years and that he had no desire to spend his entire career in Washington.

According to Politico, after Mitt Romney’s failed 2012 presidential bid, during which Ryan was the vice presidential nominee, the Wisconsin Republican told his wife that he was considering stepping down from the House. It was then-Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerFormer Speaker Boehner's official portrait unveiled Key Republicans say Biden can break Washington gridlock From learning on his feet to policy director MORE (R-Ohio) who talked him out of retiring, offering him a waiver that would allow him to continue to serve as the chairman of the Budget Committee.

Even in the weeks before he won the speakership in 2015, Ryan said he was not interested in taking on the position, saying the job was “for an empty nester.” He has three young children.

But Ryan remained a favorite among conservatives for the job. McCarthy, who was a contender for the speakership in 2015, told National Review at the time that he wanted Ryan for the top House job.

— Scott Wong contributed to this story which was updated at 1:31 p.m.