"Fourth most powerful person" in government: Paul Ryan named "Ways and Means Committee" chairman

WASHINGTON (WITI) -- Congressman Ryan's new post in Congress places him at the forefront of the biggest issues facing the country, from taxes and trade to social security and the safety net. Congressman Ryan has been named the chair of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, and it's a position that could factor into presidential politics.

"Ways and Means Committee is the most important committee in Congress in my opinion," Ryan said.

The Ways and Means Committee has jurisdiction over many of the most important areas in the federal government -- extending Ryan's reach over taxation, tariffs, trade, social security, most federal welfare and assistance programs, Medicare, unemployment benefits and child support laws -- to name a few.

"It has a huge impact on the economy.  About three-fifths of the federal budget goes through the Ways and Means Committee," Ryan said.

Mordecai Lee, a professor of governmental affairs at UW-Milwaukee says the post is without question the most powerful chairmanship in all of Congress.

"That would make him sort of the fourth most powerful person in the federal government in Washington, D.C., and it would be a job he could have for the entire foreseeable future," Lee said.

Ryan could hold the post for six years under term limits imposed by his own party, but he could also get a waiver to serve longer -- just as he did in his Budget Committee chairmanship.

"We have to remember from the Constitution that the Constitution put emphasis on the House over the Senate when it comes to money," Lee said.

"This is the key committee when it comes to creating jobs, fixing the economy, fixing the broken health care system, so that's what I want to tackle," Ryan said.

Democratic Congresswoman Gwen Moore said in a statement: "I see this as a great opportunity for Mr. Ryan to address criticisms of his previous budget plan and its impact on those battling poverty."

Ryan is 43 years old. His latest assignment positions him to achieve his long-standing goals of entitlement reform and tax reform.

"Tax reform is one of those issues that I will be tackling. It is something we're going to be taking on for sure.  This tax code is an old jalopy that costs jobs in America and we have to reform our tax system," Ryan said.

There are two schools of thought on whether this post makes Ryan more or less likely to run for president in 2016. Those who say he's more likely believe it gives him a prominent platform in Congress to oppose President Barack Obama and Democrats. Those who say he's less likely to run believe at heart he's a policy guy who would rather try to solve problems than campaign.

Ryan says he'll make a decision on 2016 next year.

Ryan offered the following statement after being named chair of Ways and Means:

“I want to thank my colleagues for giving me the opportunity to chair the Ways and Means Committee in the 114th Congress.

"We have a lot of work to do to get our economy back on track, and the Ways and Means Committee will be at the forefront of reform. We will work together to fix the tax code, hold the IRS accountable, strengthen Medicare and Social Security, repair the safety net, promote job-creating trade agreements, and determine how best to repeal and replace Obamacare with patient-centered solutions.

“I want to thank Chairman Dave Camp for his leadership and also recognize Congressman Kevin Brady for his tireless work on behalf of our country. The Ways and Means Committee is full of talented people on both sides of the aisle, and I can't wait to get to work.”

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