Reviewing Paul Ryan’s Short Term as Chairman of Ways and Means

October 23, 2015

After only ten months as the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Congressman Paul Ryan is accepting a promotion. Yesterday, Congressman Ryan announced his candidacy for Speaker of the House, and he is all but certain to win next Thursday’s election.

While it is unclear exactly when Chairman Ryan will cede the gavel to his successor, he will have served one of the shortest terms as Ways and Means chairman in modern times. Since 1871, only two chairmen of the Ways and Means Committee have served less than a full year – Sam Gibbons and Sander Levin, both of whom were acting chairmen.

Nevertheless, during Chairman Ryan’s short term at the head of Ways and Means, he has taken part in several important developments in the world of tax policy:

  • At the very beginning of Chairman Ryan’s term, the House of Representatives adopted dynamic scoring – a rule that requires official budget estimates of legislation to take into account the law’s effects on the economy. Chairman Ryan played an important part in promoting this change, arguing that dynamic scoring is “reality-based.” We have argued the same case on multiple occasions.
  • Chairman Ryan has been closely involved in efforts to continue funding the Highway Trust Fund. While he unfortunately ruled out the possibility of adjusting federal gas taxes to provide a long-term source of revenue for the fund, his efforts led to a three-month extension of highway funding.
  • Under Chairman Ryan’s tenure, Congress renewed its focus on international tax reform. Ryan has advocated for a territorial tax system, which would end the double taxation of income earned abroad by U.S. companies.
  • Finally, Chairman Ryan has continually pushed to make bonus depreciation permanent. Bonus depreciation allows businesses to immediately deduct half of their investment expenses, which we estimate would lead to significant economic growth.

Under Chairman Ryan’s tenure, the Ways and Means Committee was one of the most productive in the House of Representatives. In the last 10 months, the Ways and Means Committee has brought 52 bills to the House floor, tied for most with the Energy and Commerce Committee. Out of these bills, 15 were passed into law, the most out of any committee.

Many analysts expect that, if he is elected as Speaker, Chairman Ryan will continue his focus on tax policy. If so, the prospects for sound, comprehensive tax reform are bright.

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