House Speaker Paul Ryan's decision to retire after the end of this year will mark an "enormous loss" to the chamber, and Rep. Tom Cole said Thursday he hopes the Wisconsin Republican will return to public life,
"He's been a brilliant speaker," the Oklahoma Republican told MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
"Hopefully, after he has a chance to recharge his batteries when he's done, and he won't be done until January of next year, we'll see him again at some point in public life. I'm a huge admirer of Paul Ryan."
Ryan "is the guy that by the time he's 48, he'll be a vice presidential nominee, the chairman of the Budget Committee, the chairman of Ways and Means Committee and the Speaker of the House," said Cole. "That's a pretty extraordinary set of achievements and it tells you what his colleagues thought about him."
Ryan on Wednesday announced that he will not seek re-election in November, commenting that he was stepping down to spend more time with his family and to be more than a "weekend dad," and Cole said he has no doubt that's true.
Cole did raise some questions on the program when he said he might have decided against his own race for re-election if he'd known Paul was leaving, but he minutes later said he'd made his own decision some time ago.
Ryan has been in Washington for all of Cole's House career, having started while he was in his 20s.
"I got here in my 50s, so he's a guy I've admired," said Cole. "I had the chance to be on his committee for four years when he chaired budgets, so I consider him a close friend and ally and he's somebody who represents what's best in the House of representatives and public life in America."
He admitted, though, that he is concerned, as many Republicans are, that Democrats could take over the House this fall.
"Nobody has had a good midterm election since 2002," said Cole. "It doesn't matter if you're a Republican or Democrat so anybody that thinks we're not facing a challenging environment is just misstating the facts or doesn't understand them. But reality is we have about a 50-50 shot in my view of hanging on to the majority."
Republicans, though, have much to run on, including tax reform and repealing the individual Obamacare mandate, but there is "no question the other side is energized, and the environment is going to be challenging."
The tax law and spending increases will result in a deficit of more than $1 trillion in 2020, and Cole said he wants to know when someone will get serious about entitlement reform.
"The real question is, when is somebody is going to get serious about entitlement reform around here?" said Cole. "I've got legislation that would start us down that road on Social Security, carry it with my friend the Democratic Rep. John Delaney."
However, he said he's not worried about Democrats, as they didn't "bother to worry about a $1.4 trillion deficit under former President Barack Obama.
"I am worried that we have a Republican administration that's put forward nothing serious in the way of Medicaid, Medicare," said Cole.
"That's 60 percent of federal spending of all three programs. So, until you get serious about that, you won't come close to balancing the budget."
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