Congressman to push reform as chair of powerful House committee

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November 19, 2014 | comments

By Mark Schaaf

While a 2016 presidential bid is possible, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan this week attained a powerful position he said he’s long wanted.

Republican leaders on Tuesday, Nov. 18, selected Ryan to chair the House Ways and Means Committee, the main tax-writing committee in Congress. The committee has jurisdiction in a number of key areas, such as trade agreements, taxes, health care, Social Security and social programs.

Ryan, who previously served as the Budget Committee chairman, can serve as long as six years, but no more, due to term limits.

“It’s been my aspiration for a long time because it’s the most important committee in Congress dealing with economic issues,” Ryan, R-Wis., said in an interview Wednesday with The Journal Times.

“In the Budget Committee, you articulate a vision and sort of the architecture of ideas. In the Ways and Means Committee, you fill in the details. The Ways and Means Committee writes the actual laws that affect people. And it’s the committee, really, that has the most impact on the economy.”

Ryan said he will deal with issues, like how much of residents’ paychecks go toward health care or how much they pay in taxes, that directly impact his 1st Congressional District, which encompasses Racine County.

“It really affects just the bread-and-butter issues facing the people of the 1st District,” he said. “It’s the critical committee in charge of the economy. My goal here is to do everything I can to bring reforms, to get faster economic growth and produce a healthier economy and more jobs.”

Of immediate concern for the committee will be addressing possible cuts in Medicare payments for physicians and funding shortages in the Highway Trust Fund, Ryan said.

Ryan, who hasn't decided whether he will run for president in 2016, also said tax reform figures to be a big issue next year.

“Our businesses are being taxed at much higher rates than our foreign competitors,” said Ryan, who officially takes over as chairman in January after the new Congress is sworn in. “And as a result, we’re losing jobs and losing companies. They’re literally relocating overseas or being taken over by foreign companies.”

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