Michigan Republican Rep. Dave Camp announced Monday he will not seek re-election this fall, paving the way for Rep. Paul Ryan, the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee, to become perhaps the most powerful member of the House of Representatives.
Ryan is the clear frontrunner to succeed Camp as chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, where he would be in charge of policies governing Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and more.
"Paul Ryan has always been the guy in the room pushing to get something done when the naysayers say, 'It can't be done,'" GOP strategist Kevin Madden, who worked on the Romney campaign, told Business Insider. "He's always been a solution-oriented legislator looking to tackle the big things. So whether it's tax reform or entitlement reform, you can count on Paul Ryan having a plan and pushing against the lethargy of the status quo."
Rick Wilson, another GOP strategist, added: "Ryan will be a more powerful figure in that he's media-friendly, and has a very large, very smart, very considered set of ideas on the reform of entitlements specifically, and the budget process more generally."
Many Hill observers expected Camp to retire, as he hadn't filed for re-election while the late-April deadline to do so neared. Camp's final major act as chair of the Ways and Means Committee was the introduction of a tax-code overhaul that, in an election year, produced grumbles from both sides of the political aisle. In addition to the bipartisan opposition to Camp's proposal, the odds of tax reform legislation succeeding this year decreased dramatically when Democratic Sen. Max Baucus, who worked on the proposal with Camp, left his position as the chair of the Senate Finance Committee to become the U.S. ambassador to China.
Ryan, who is currently the chair of the House Budget Committee, will unveil the House Republican budget on Tuesday. The budget is expected to test GOP unity leading up to the midterm elections, as it will likely contain many of the more politically unpopular entitlement cuts to achieve a balanced budget in 10 years.
If he does indeed win the chairmanship, Ryan's strong name recognition would instantly bring star power to the issues he'd take on as Ways and Means chair and even some Democrats are apparently eager for the possibility.
"I’m excited by the prospect on many levels," one House Democratic aide told Business Insider. "I think he raises the profile of the committee in a major way. And it will put him in a position of having to put his money where his mouth is on many of the proposals he has been championing."
The 60-year-old Camp's retirement will end a 24-year career in Congress, the last of which he spent as chair of Ways and Means following the Republican takeover of the House in 2011. In a statement, Camp said he would spend his remaining time in Congress redoubling his "efforts to grow our economy and expand opportunity for every American by fixing our broken tax code, permanently solving physician payments for seniors, strengthening the social safety net, and finding new markets for U.S. goods and services."
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