MADISON, Wis. — The Republican field is growing in the race to replace House Speaker Paul Ryan, but he said Friday that he won't endorse anyone yet.
Ryan's abrupt retirement announcement last week sent Republicans scrambling to fill the void, with many high-profile current and former office holders deciding not to run but several lesser-known candidates entering the race. Union iron worker Randy Bryce and Janesville teacher Cathy Myers are running as Democrats.
Ryan spoke about his retirement decision after 20 years in Congress, his priorities for his final months in office and his plans for the future in a speech Friday to about 50 members of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce. It was his first Wisconsin appearance since his announcement last week that he wouldn't run again.
Ryan, 48, didn't reveal what he would do post-retirement, saying only, "My plan is to come up with a plan in 2019." He reiterated that he was motivated to step down in order to spend more time with his three children.
"When your kids are 13, 14 and 16 and you're only home on weekends, it really starts pulling on you," Ryan said.
In his remaining months, Ryan said he wants Congress to tackle Internet privacy concerns; pass the farm bill that includes new work and job training requirements for food stamps; rewrite the Dodd-Frank financial law; address infrastructure needs; and consider rejoining the Asia-Pacific trade deal that President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of last year.
Ryan said it would be a "good idea" to rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as Trump has signaled he may, even though Trump campaigned on the promise to get out of the trade deal.
Ryan said flaws in the TPP that led him to block approval of the deal under President Barack Obama could be fixed. The trade deal could force countries like China "to agree to play by our rules and treat us fairly," Ryan said.
Ryan also said he saw a need for Congress to regulate tech companies to protect the privacy of consumers, but he doesn't want to act hastily. Congress has been holding high-profile hearings on the issue, which have included testimony from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
"We want to make sure we get it right without stifling innovation," Ryan said.
In the race to replace Ryan, applications engineer Kevin Adam Steen announced his candidacy on Thursday. Jeremy Ryan, a liberal known as a prominent protester in Madison who ran as a Republican against Ryan in 2014 but got only 6 percent of the vote, also registered with the state to run.
Another former Ryan foe, Paul Nehlen, is running after he was banned from Twitter earlier this year for racist and anti-Semitic posts. Ryan's campaign, among others, has said Nehlen is not fit to hold office.
Nick Polce, a political newcomer and former Green Beret, is also running as a Republican.
Former Ryan aide and current University of Wisconsin Regent Bryan Steil plans to announce his intentions on Sunday.
The deadline to file is June 1 and the primary is Aug. 14.