Paul Ryan’s candidacy for speaker complicates tax outlook

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is largely expected to be elected speaker of the House on Oct. 28, leaving a void on the Ways and Means Committee that complicates the outlook for tax legislation.

Ryan initially resisted giving up his position as chair of the Ways and Means Committee, but reversed his stance and embraced the role after the Republican caucus rallied behind him. The promotion will rob the tax-writing committee of a persuasive and influential leader, but it does bring a champion of tax reform and tax issues to the role of Speaker.

Reps. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, and Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio, are expected to seek the Ways and Means committee gavel. Both are longtime members of the committee, but don’t carry Ryan’s weight with the caucus. They might have more difficulty navigating ambitious tax proposals through the committee, even with the new speaker’s support.

Ryan has been a fierce advocate of tax reform and has worked to assemble an international tax reform package that could be paired with a highway spending bill. Highway funding is set to expire on Oct. 29, and Ryan recently instructed appropriators to proceed without tax reform. But he has reportedly not given up on the idea of tying highway spending to international reform and was continuing to work on a package before current Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, announced his retirement.

As speaker, Ryan would have more influence to push an international reform package with highways, but he would also have many other competing priorities and wouldn’t have the same ability to personally craft the tax bill. Senate Republicans also continue to oppose the idea. A short-term highway bill extension could buy reform proponents more time, but international reform remains unlikely. The legislative schedule is already packed with more pressing deadlines, including the following:

  • Oct. 28: Speaker election
  • Nov. 4: Debt limit increase needed to avoid default
  • Dec. 11: Government spending expires
The packed agenda will also make it difficult for Congress to extend the 50-plus provisions that expired at the end of 2014. The tax extenders may have to wait to be packaged with a broader spending bill at the end of year or even until after government funding is addressed in mid-December.

Dustin Stamper
T +1 202 861 4144

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