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As Ryan gets ready to take on House Speaker role, Ways & Means members jockey for tax-writing chairmanship

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) appears to be on his way to becoming the next Speaker of the House.

The Republicans' 2012 vice presidential candidate apparently convinced enough of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus (HFC) that he's their man. According to Capitol Hill reports, more than 70 percent of the Tea Party based House group voted to support Ryan after a closed door session with him Tuesday (Oct. 21) night.

Paul Ryan and John Boehner 2012The new (probably) and exiting House Speaker, Paul Ryan and John Boehner, sharing a lighter moment in 2012.

The vote wasn't sufficient to earn the HFC's official endorsement. Its leaders, however, indicated it was enough so that the group wouldn't oppose Ryan, at least not overtly. The 40 or so seriously right-wing Representatives are credited/blamed with prompting departing Speaker Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) to retire. 

The HFC support also was enough for the presumptive new Speaker, who earlier has said he wanted a supermajority, or 80 percent, of the group to agree to his leadership, before he would take the next Speakership step. Ryan said on Twitter Tuesday night:

"I'm grateful for the support of a supermajority [I guess Ryan rounded the vote total up] of the House Freedom Caucus. I look forward to hearing from the other two caucuses by the end of the week, but I believe this is a positive step toward a unified Republican team."

Ryan is expected to easily win the support of the centrist Tuesday Group and the Republican Study Committee.

Whither Ways and Means? With the new House leadership picture getting clearer, it's time to focus on what now happens with the Ways and Means Committee.

Personally, I'm surprised Ryan is surrendering the reins of one of the most powerful panels in Washington, D.C.

Yes, he still will be able to guide eventual tax reform as House Speaker, but he won't be working on the nuts and bolts of any tax code overhaul. That likely will be frustrating for a guy who is often described as a detail-oriented lawmaker.

So who will be taking over the tax-writing chairmanship?

UPDATE, Oct. 29, 2015: Until a new chair is selected, Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Sam Johnson (R-Texas will serve as the full committee's acting chairman. During this period all committee business will continue as scheduled.

The two leading candidates are Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and Rep. Patrick J. Tiberi (R-Ohio).

Texas flat-taxer: Brady had sought the Ways and Means chairmanship at the beginning of the 114th Congress, losing the post to Ryan.

Brady currently is chairman of the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee. In that role, he was a point person for the recent overhaul of Medicare physician reimbursement rates. The passage of this measure that replaces the formula used to determine physicians Medicare fees ended the perennial temporary "doc fix" bills that had bedeviled Congress for more than a decade.

As for strictly tax matters, Brady wants to limit tax breaks and lower tax rates. He also was a driver of the 2004 revival of the state and local sales tax deduction, a popular tax break with Brady's Texas constituents who have no state income tax to deduct on Schedule A.

In the broader tax scheme of things, Brady also favors the Fair Tax. This proposal calls for a national sales tax to replace most federal taxes. It also would eliminate the IRS.

Trading trade for top job: Tiberi is fourth in seniority on the full panel. He also is a Ways and Means subcommittee chair, heading up the Trade under-panel.

In his Trade post, Tiberi played a key role in convincing his fellow House Republicans to give President Barack Obama fast track authority

The Ohioan has longstanding ties to the departing Boehner, a fellow Buckeye, and Ryan. 

The Ways and Means members will select their new leader if and when Ryan finally gives up that gavel for the larger one needed to call the full House to order.

Then we'll have to see how smoothing the taxi-writing transition will be. Some on the panel, including GOP members, have expressed concern that Ryan's departure could complicate efforts to finish a number of must-pass items, including tax extenders.

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Find more tax news and tips at the Don't Mess With Taxes home page.


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