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October 26, 2015

U.S. House Will Hold Vote For Speaker This Week

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), who currently chairs the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, announced last Thursday night that he had decided to run for Speaker of the House. Earlier in the week, Chairman Ryan had said he would run for the position if he could unify the caucus. 

Republicans will cast votes in the Speaker’s race this Thursday, Oct. 29. 

Chairman Ryan has wide support among Republican members of the House, including from the House Freedom Caucus, and has an excellent reputation inside Washington, DC. On Fox News Sunday, The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward praised Chairman Ryan, noting he talks about “big ideas” and “oozes reasonableness.” After an informal vote, the House Freedom Caucus, which is comprised of members in the conservative wing of the Republican Party, said Chairman Ryan had won the support of a “supermajority” of its members. Chairman Ryan is also likely to have the support of the 67 members of the House Main Street Partnership. 

If Chairman Ryan wins the Speaker’s race on Thursday, how will it affect the cause of federal tax reform? Former Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, who held the position before Chairman Ryan took over in January, told Congressional Quarterly (subscription required), that Ryan’s ascension could “enhance the prospects of comprehensive tax reform.” Movement on tax reform will ultimately depend on who takes over the Ways and Means gavel from Chairman Ryan, however. So far, Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) and Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-OH) have said they are running to fill that position. 

The Ways and Means Committee also oversees trade policy (so the next chairman also would be in charge of shepherding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) through Congress) and entitlement spending programs. Rep. Tiberi currently heads the Ways and Means Committee’s trade subcommittee, so if he moves up to chairman of the full committee his seat would need to be filled. Reps. Charles Boustany (R-LA) and Dave Reichert (R-WA) have said they are both interested in serving as chair of that subcommittee if Rep. Tiberi takes over as Ways and Means Committee chair. (Reps. Boustany and Reichert are both pro-trade.) 

Politico’s “Morning Trade” speculated that a Ryan speakership could also boost the TPP. Although Chairman Ryan has not yet indicated whether he will support the deal, his history on the issue certainly suggests he is inclined to. Politico said, “Rep. Paul Ryan's potential run for speaker would put a strongly pro-trade lawmaker in the most powerful position in the House, where he could use his credibility with conservative lawmakers – who have often broken with retiring Speaker John Boehner – to increase the likelihood of approving the Trans-Pacific Partnership.” 

 Chairman Ryan has served in the House since 1998 – he was elected when he was just 28 years old – and is from Janesville, Wis.