Ryan focuses on legacy as talk of shutdown dominates capital

Days away from relinquishing his Speaker’s gavel, Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanIndiana GOP Rep. Brooks says she won't seek reelection Indiana GOP Rep. Brooks says she won't seek reelection Inside Biden's preparations for first debate MORE is in full legacy mode.

The Wisconsin Republican on Tuesday rolled out a flattering six-part video series touting how he shepherded tax reform — his No. 1 legislative priority — through Congress a year ago.

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At 1 p.m. Wednesday, the retiring Speaker will deliver a farewell address from the ornate Great Hall of the Library of Congress that will echo many of the themes in the video.

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 MattisJames Norman MattisTop nuclear official quietly left Pentagon in April Top nuclear official quietly left Pentagon in April Overnight Defense: Pompeo blames Iran for oil tanker attacks | House panel approves 3B defense bill | Trump shares designs for red, white and blue Air Force One MORE. 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 RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyMcConnell defends Trump amid backlash: 'He gets picked at every day' McConnell defends Trump amid backlash: 'He gets picked at every day' 'Landslide' for Biden? A look at 40 years of inaccurate presidential polls MORE’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.

Ryan is “taking a victory lap as the stadium is being evacuated,” tweeted New York Times political reporter Alex Burns.

White House officials signaled on Tuesday they wanted to avoid a partial shutdown, suggesting for the first time that there are other ways for President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump cites tax cuts over judges as having biggest impact of his presidency Trump cites tax cuts over judges as having biggest impact of his presidency Ocasio-Cortez claps back at Trump after he cites her in tweet rejecting impeachment MORE to get his $5 billion for a border wall.

But it was notable that that message did not come from Trump, who has insisted that the wall money be tied to a must-pass funding bill and declared that he’d be “proud” to shut down the government if his demands are not met.     

Democrats have agreed to a funding bill with more than $1.3 billion for fencing and other border security, but they’ve dismissed $5 billion for Trump’s wall as a non-starter.

Ryan, who flies back to Washington on Wednesday morning, has been kept in the loop on funding talks, sources said. He speaks regularly with Trump and his Senate counterpart, Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP nervous that border wall fight could prompt year-end shutdown GOP nervous that border wall fight could prompt year-end shutdown Jon Stewart slams McConnell over 9/11 victim fund MORE (R-Ky.). The focus of the negotiations, however, have centered mostly on Trump and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw US women's soccer team reignites equal pay push MORE (D-N.Y.), since Republicans will need a handful of Democrats to get any funding measure through the upper chamber.

With Trump’s threat, a week that could have been about Ryan’s swan song is instead dominated by the possibility of a third government shutdown this year and whether the president might avert it and save Christmas for lawmakers, staffers and reporters, and hundreds of thousands of federal workers who need a paycheck over the holidays.

That dynamic is symbolic of the last two years of Ryan’s tenure in the Speaker’s Office: The self-disciplined budget wonk and fitness guru has wanted to keep the focus on conservative policies, but the mercurial president keeps creating unnecessary controversies, driving the party off-message and putting GOP leaders in difficult situations.

The video series, titled “Decades in the Making,” tracks Ryan’s long and arduous journey to overhaul the tax system, from a 28-year-old freshman lawmaker to vice presidential candidate to Ways and Means Committee chairman and finally to Speaker of the House.

Filmed and produced by his communications team, the Ryan retrospective includes cameos from Ryan’s predecessor, former Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerTed Cruz, AOC have it right on banning former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists Ted Cruz, AOC have it right on banning former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists Rep. Amash stokes talk of campaign against Trump MORE (R-Ohio); close friends from the House, like Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb HensarlingThomas (Jeb) Jeb HensarlingHas Congress lost the ability or the will to pass a unanimous bipartisan small business bill? Maxine Waters is the Wall Street sheriff the people deserve Ex-GOP congressman heads to investment bank MORE (R-Texas), former Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and South Dakota Gov.-elect Kristi NoemKristi Lynn NoemTransportation Department seeks to crack down on pipeline protests: report Trump touts 'BIG FIREWORKS' returning to Mt. Rushmore for July 4 American Indian tribe bans GOP governor from reservation over opposition to Keystone protestors MORE (R); and Ryan’s top aides, including chief of staff Jonathan Burks and former deputy chief Joyce Meyer, who went on to become a deputy assistant to Trump.

“When you start to overhaul the tax code, inevitably you’re going to step on a lot of toes, and it takes a long time to do these kind of big changes,” BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerTed Cruz, AOC have it right on banning former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists Ted Cruz, AOC have it right on banning former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists Rep. Amash stokes talk of campaign against Trump MORE says in the first video, dubbed “The Idea.” “In Paul’s case, he spent his entire career building a consensus as to what to do and how to do it.”

The slick docuseries, which includes inspirational music and memorable moments from Ryan’s career, is a testament to the Speaker’s savvy digital media team. But it also drew derision from some GOP colleagues who thought the tax reform–focused series was too much about Ryan rather than the rank-and-file lawmakers — including those on the Ways and Means panel — who spent hundreds of hours drafting and working to pass the legislation with little credit.

Boehner, who abruptly resigned as Speaker the morning after the pope visited him in the Capitol in 2015, left office with little fanfare compared to Ryan. There was a tearful farewell address, but it was given from the well of the House floor, not the Great Hall.

And there was no six-part video series on Boehner’s signature legislative achievement: No Child Left Behind.

But as one House GOP lawmaker quipped: “Boehner ain’t running for POTUS in six years.”

At just 48, Ryan departs Washington as a young man. Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden calls for equal pay for US women's soccer team Biden calls for equal pay for US women's soccer team Yang: Standing next to Biden on debate stage would help boost name recognition MORE, Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersConfused by polls? Watch early primary states — not national numbers Confused by polls? Watch early primary states — not national numbers Biden leads in early voting states, followed by Warren, Sanders: poll MORE (I-Vt.), Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenBiden calls for equal pay for US women's soccer team Biden calls for equal pay for US women's soccer team Trump steadfast in denials as support for impeachment grows MORE (D-Mass.) and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg are decades older than Ryan and are openly mulling presidential bids in 2020.

With Trump seeking reelection, the next time there would be an opening to run would be in 2024. Ryan would be just 54 years old then.

But Ryan has repeatedly said he has no plans to run for president. In fact, after he hands over the Speaker’s gavel, the only government job he said he’d want is to be ambassador to Ireland, from where some of his ancestors emigrated.

GOP aides defended Ryan’s legacy-building efforts, arguing that Republicans need to show that they fulfilled a key 2016 campaign promise and passed tax reform. Also, as Democrats prepare to take back the House and try to roll back those tax cuts, Republicans need to make the case for why they should be preserved, aides said.

“As a kid from Janesville, Wis., I never thought I’d work on the Hill let alone be a member of Congress,” Ryan says in the sixth and final video, “The Finale.” “I just feel very blessed to have had these opportunities here, to take ideas, to push these ideas, to see them go into law and make a huge positive difference in people’s lives.

“It’s a great system we have.”