Ryan's Big Decision: Presidency or Ways and Means?

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Friday, 11 Apr 2014 11:27 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Rep. Paul Ryan has a big decision to make as his term as chairman of theHouse Budget Committee comes to an end — he must choose between seeking the 2016 Republican presidential nomination or chairing the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.

Ryan, 44, has kept his plans so private that even his close allies don't know what he has planned, The Washington Post reported. The 2012 vice-presidential nominee has made several moves in both directions, and fellow Wisconsin Republican Rep. Sean Duffy, who won office in 2010 while campaigning on Ryan's budget proposals, said he "honestly doesn't think" Ryan himself knows yet what he will do.

Ways and Means is the House's primary tax-writing committee.

The House of Representatives on Thursday approved Ryan's final budget plan, which includes a proposed $5 trillion in cuts and a Medicare overhaul. He has left the capital to spend the two-week Congressional break touring the nation.

He will make his first stop Friday in Iowa, where he is the keynote speaker at the state's Republican Party Lincoln Day dinner in Cedar Rapids. His visit will be the second trip to the state, the first in the nation to hold presidential caucuses, and the trip is being seen as Ryan's plan to court both wings of the state's fractured Republican Party.

Last fall, Ryan was the chief attraction at a fundraiser held to celebrate Gov. Terry Branstad's birthday, an event that attracted 800 of the state's most powerful Republicans.

But on Friday, Paul will speak before conservatives and libertarians who took over the state party, who are feuding with Branstad.

After the Iowa appearance, Paul will head to Asia as part of a congressional delegation.

Ryan has also been working to benefit his House colleagues, including raising money at events for their campaigns. His advisers said he brought in $1.7 million for various candidates, and $3.3 million for Republican committees, along with donating more than $500,000 to candidates through his political action committee, actions that colleagues will consider when it comes time to elect a new leader for the Ways and Means committee.

Ryan has not said what his plans are, insisting he is focusing on 2014 and building up the GOP's majority in the House and that he will not decide on the presidential race until 2015.

Oklahoma Republican Rep. Tom Cole, a senior member of the Budget Committee, said Ryan is well-known enough after his 2012 run that he doesn't need to be aggressive with his early primary efforts.

But Cole thinks Ryan must need to make clear what he wants to do, because Republicans want a Ways and Means chairman who will concentrate on the post, not "be running off for president a few days later."

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