The House officially elected Rep. Paul Ryan as the 54th speaker of the House after he got the votes of 236 members, ending weeks of speculation about who would carry the Republican Party into the 2016 presidential election year. The next few weeks will provide insight into the congressman’s strategy moving forward.
In his speech, Ryan called the House “broken” and urged his colleagues to come together, re-establish order, and find unity and common ground. “Only a fully functioning House can truly represent the people," he said on the House floor. "What a relief it would be to the American people if we finally got our act together-what a weight off their shoulders."
Senate Finance Committee chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said Ryan has a remarkable record of forging bipartisan compromise and he “fought to make responsible tax relief permanent, helped bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority become law and worked to dismantle Obamacare.”
Agricultural groups welcomed his pragmatism and bipartisan cooperation in Washington and expressed optimism he can deliver on those promises.
National Corn Growers Association President Chip Bowling said he hopes Congress will heed the advice of their new leader. “From reforming our tax code to finding long-term solutions for our nation’s roads and bridges, there is important work to do. We ask Congress to take Speaker Ryan’s words to heart. Let’s wipe the slate clean, put aside partisan differences, and commit to moving our country forward together,” Bowling said.
Ryan was called a “faithful friend of farmers and ranchers” during his time in Congress, by Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. “He has supported sensible changes in enforcement of the Endangered Species Act, backed open and fair trade with the rest of the world, fought chronic overreach by the Environmental Protection Agency and has been working to bring needed relief on the tax burden farmers and ranchers face,” Stallman said.
Kristina Butts, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, executive director of legislative affairs, said Ryan has a great reputation for focusing on policy, rather than politics. Butts said she expects Ryan to refocus emphasis on committee work and make that committee process work again.
“It will be interesting to see what his strategy will be, and we should know in the near future,” Butts said. “It’s likely that he will move issues that are really large and controversial by finding a consensus and a way with a path forward.”
And as for the void he left on the House Ways and Means Committee, agriculture also has a friend in his replacement Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas. Brady is sponsor of legislation approved by the House to not only extend the research and development (R&D) tax credit, but enhance the provision and make it permanent once and for all. At least 50 tax provisions expired at the end of 2014 or are scheduled to expire.
The Broad Tax Extenders Coalition urged him to make tax extenders his immediate priority upon taking over as leader of the committee and thanked him for his past support, including championing legislation to make permanent certain expired tax provisions.
“Farmers and ranchers can’t afford to gamble on what tax provisions may be available to them from year to year,” said Stallman. “They count on provisions like Section 179 small business expensing and bonus depreciation to free up cash flow and reinvest in their farms. Allowing these tax provisions to expire holds up rural businesses and economies.”