Paul Ryan Says Immigration and Federal Debt Are His Biggest Regrets

(Andrew Harnik/REUTERS )

After bidding farewell to Congress in a heartfelt floor speech Thursday, outgoing House speaker Paul Ryan reflected on his two decades as a lawmaker in an interview.

“I’m immensely grateful for the people of southern Wisconsin for their trust and their confidence,” Ryan said in his farewell speech. “I’ve always had this thing about calling the people I represent not my constituents, but my employers. It’s the way I’ve always thought of this, and I think it’s important that we as members understand that we work for the people and not the other way around.”

First elected in 1998 at age 28, Ryan chaired the House Budget Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee before being tapped in 2015 to take over the speakership from the retiring John Boehner. He first burst onto the national scene in 2012, when he was picked as Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s vice presidential nominee. He announced his retirement in April, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family.

Ryan helped usher massive Republican tax cuts through Congress and into law last December, giving President Trump his signature domestic achievement. He was also able to pass a repeal of the Affordable Health Care Act through the House, though the bill fell flat in the Senate.

In an interview Thursday with the Washington Post, Ryan said the two biggest regrets of his congressional career were failing to reform immigration law and not paying down the federal debt.

“We will have a great 21st century,” he said, if those two issues are addressed.

More broadly, Ryan lamented the “new norm” of “tribalism” in the current political environment.

“That tribalism in our country, to me, is our undoing,” he said. “Yes, the president has a hostile relationship with the press, no two ways about it. But that’s the new norm in this day and age.”