In his first Wisconsin appearance since announcing he will not seek re-election this fall, House Speaker Paul Ryan addressed members of the state's largest business lobby Friday in Madison.
Ryan listed the Republican tax overhaul and boosting military funding as two of his proudest accomplishments while in office, and said he'd like for Congress to focus on infrastructure funding and reining in entitlement programs going forward.
"We see a military that’s being rebuilt, an economy that’s growing," Ryan told Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce members at a luncheon. "I am very pleased with what we’ve been able to accomplish. I’m very pleased with this agenda that we ran on, asked the country for permission to execute, won the election and executed."
With the national deficit set to surpass $1 trillion by 2020, Ryan argued the way to get the budget in control is to address health care entitlements — something that cannot be done, he said, without bipartisan buy-in.
Asked whether the federal government should regulate data privacy issues, Ryan said there is "clearly a role" for some federal oversight.
The question came in light of news that Cambridge Analytica, a firm hired by President Donald Trump's campaign, accessed the personal data of millions of Facebook users. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress on the issue earlier this month.
"We want to have an innovation economy, we want to encourage disruption … while we figure out in this ever changing technological environment, how do we protect people's privacy?" Ryan said.
After two decades in Congress, Ryan said last week that he wants to spend more time with his family and be more than a "weekend dad." Republicans scrambled to see who would run in his place, and several state lawmakers declined to enter the race.
Attorney and University of Wisconsin System Regent Bryan Steil is scheduled to announce on Sunday in Janesville whether he is running to represent the 1st Congressional District.
Two Republicans had already lined up to challenge Ryan: Paul Nehlen, a Delavan businessman, and Nick Polce, an Army veteran from Lake Geneva. Nehlen, a white nationalist, managed 16 percent of the vote in his 2016 primary challenge against Ryan.
Ryan, who did not take questions from reporters during the Friday event, said he will wait until after the filing deadline passes to decide whether he will endorse a candidate in the race. His team has said he will not support Nehlen.
Randy Bryce, an ironworker from Caledonia, located just north of Racine, and Cathy Myers, a schoolteacher from Janesville, will face each other in the Democratic primary in August. State Rep. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, told the Racine Journal Times he is considering entering the race, and will make a decision "relatively soon."
Barca was the last Democrat to represent the 1st District in Congress, from 1993 to 1995. He was defeated in 1994 by former U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann, who held the seat until Ryan took office in 1999.
Ryan has said he has "no plans" to run for public office in the future. He said Friday he does not know what he will do after he leaves Congress.
"I think there is something to say about voluntarily giving up power," Ryan said. "I think it’s important for leaders and elected officials to be able to give up power, when they have it and when they don’t have it. I think that's the right message to send to our youth … It’s what our founding fathers envisioned."