November 1, 2015

As Paul Ryan Is Elected Speaker, Republicans Turn Focus To Ways And Means Chairmanship

Last Thursday, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) was elected to be the 54th Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Rep. Ryan received the support of 236 of his House colleagues; House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) received 184 votes while Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL) received nine. 

In remarks to the U.S. House after his election, Speaker Ryan pledged to reform how the chamber works. He said, “[L]et’s be frank: The House is broken. We are not solving problems. We are adding to them. And I am not interested in laying blame. We are not settling scores. We are wiping the slate clean. … We need to make some changes, starting with how the House does business. We need to let every member contribute – not once they have earned their stripes, but right now. … The committees should retake the lead in drafting all major legislation. If you know the issue, you should write the bill. Open up the process. Let people participate.” Speaker Ryan will start that reform process this week by allowing multiple amendments to a long-term highway reauthorization bill. 

As Connecting the Dots explained it would last week, Rep. Ryan’s ascension to Speaker set off a race for a new House Ways and Means Chair. Since Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) has taken his name out of the running, opting to remain House Intelligence Committee chairman instead, two contenders remain: Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), who was the highest ranking Republican on the panel after Rep. Ryan, and Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-OH), the third-highest ranking Republican. In a letter to committee members sent last week, Rep. Tiberi pledged to focus on infrastructure spending reform, free trade and tax reform if he becomes chair. Rep. Tiberi currently chairs the Ways and Means subcommittee on trade; if he becomes chair of the full committee that position will need to be filled next. Rep. Brady’s campaign for the Ways and Means post is complicated by the fact that a number of Texas members already hold the chairmanships of several standing House committees. 

While the Brady-Tiberi race for chair continues, Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX) has stepped in as interim chair. In a statement, Rep. Johnson said, “I am honored to serve the Ways and Means Committee during this time of transition. Under Chairman Ryan’s leadership we have enjoyed great successes, and I will continue to focus our efforts on critical issues moving forward.”