By BRIAN FALER | 12/17/13 6:51 PM EST Updated: 12/17/13 9:37 PM EST
Paul Ryan will seek to become the next chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, a move that would bring instant star power to the cause of tax reform while complicating his presidential ambitions.
The House Budget Committee chairman intends to replace Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) when term-limit restrictions force Camp to step down in 2015, Ryan told The Wall Street Journal.
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“That is my plan,” he said in an interview with the newspaper.
There has been speculation for months that Ryan would seek the Ways and Means gavel, rumblings that only grew after he brokered a deal with Senate Democrats to help avoid a government shutdown next month that left some of his fellow Republicans fuming.
Ryan has more typically stood with his party in its long-running battles with Democrats over taxes and spending, so the deal may signal he now wants to add “deal maker” to his resume.
The move would give Ryan, his party’s 2012 vice presidential candidate and perhaps the most popular Republican in Congress, a prime perch to pursue his long-standing interest in tax and entitlement reform. That could bring a jolt of energy to the push to overhaul the tax code for the first time in a generation, an effort led by Camp that has foundered amid widespread ambivalence among rank-and-file lawmakers.
If Ryan takes on tax reform in earnest, the move may also signal Ryan is not planning on running for president in 2016.
While the Ways and Means chairmanship would give him broad influence over a host of issues — from Social Security to unemployment insurance to the taxation of multinational corporations — it would also likely force him to make all sorts of messy compromises to move legislation. Instead of wooing Republican primary voters in Iowa, he’d likely be in Washington, wooing colleagues in Congress.
“He’s got to pick one — he can’t be Ways and Means chairman and then run for president,” said Stan Collender, a former congressional budget aide. “They’re two different constituencies.”
At just 43 years old, Ryan will likely have plenty more opportunities, beyond 2016, to run for president.
He would have to leapfrog a pair of more senior Republicans on the panel, Reps. Kevin Brady and Sam Johnson, both of Texas, to take the committee post.
That would spare House Republican leaders from having to consider giving Ryan what would be a second waiver from their party’s term limit rules so that he can remain Budget chairman in the next Congress. It would also open the top slot on that panel to its second-ranking Republican, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.).
In the meantime, Ryan told The Wall Street Journal he intends to help Camp continue to push tax reform next year.
“We will make the case to the country that lower tax rates across the country for families and businesses are the key” to the economy, he told the paper.