WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republican leaders chose Paul Ryan on Tuesday to head the powerful House Ways and Means Committee for the next two years, giving him a high-profile platform if he decides to run for president in 2016 or beyond.
Ryan, the party's vice presidential nominee two years ago, has sidestepped questions about his plans for 2016.
"One thing at a time, one step at a time," Ryan said Tuesday. "I'll deal with that later."
Republican leaders also chose Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah to head the House Oversight Committee and Rep. Mac Thornberry of Texas to head the Armed Services Committee.
Thornberry said he will work to promote a strong military.
"A weak America — or the perception of a weak, indecisive America — means a more dangerous world," Thornberry said.
The Oversight chairman is traditionally the chief antagonist for a president from the opposing party. Chaffetz will replace Republican Darrell Issa of California.
Ryan's new job will give him a voice on the biggest economic issues facing the country — taxes, trade, Social Security, health care and social programs.
On Ways and Means, the next chairman is expected to lead House Republican efforts to overhaul the nation's tax code, which politicians of many stripes agree is too complicated. If House Republicans offer an alternative to President Barack Obama's health law, the Ways and Means Committee could play a key role.
Also, Congress will soon have to deal with Social Security's disability program, which is facing a potential financial crisis in 2016.
All these issues offer pitfalls as well as opportunities for the next chairman of the Ways and Means committee. And consensus will be hard to come by, especially in the current partisan atmosphere.
"We have a lot of work to do to get our economy back on track, and the Ways and Means Committee will be at the forefront of reform," Ryan said. "We will work together to fix the tax code, hold the IRS accountable, strengthen Medicare and Social Security, repair the safety net, promote job-creating trade agreements, and determine how best to repeal and replace Obamacare with patient-centered solutions."
House Republicans passed a rule last week that could complicate Ryan's plans if he decides to run for president. The rule says committee chairman must give up their gavels if they run for another office, such as Senate, president or governor.
Ryan, however, could apply for a waiver.
At 44, the Wisconsin Republican has time to continue building his resume in Congress before deciding whether to mount another run for national office.
Ryan is now chairman of the House Budget Committee, but he must leave that post at the end of the year because of term limits. As Budget Committee chairman, he has made a name for himself as the main architect of several conservative House Republican budgets.
In all, the House GOP steering committee chose a slate of 17 committee chairmen Tuesday. The entire House Republican conference is expected to approve the slate on Wednesday, the vote usually a formality.
In addition, House Speaker John Boehner chose six-term Republican Rep. Devin Nunes of California to serve as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Boehner chose Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., to chair the House Ethics Committee.
Among the others chosen by the steering committee:
—Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, to chair the House Agriculture Committee.
—Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., to chair the House Appropriations Committee.
—Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., to chair the House Budget Committee.
—Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., to chair the House Education Committee.
—Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., to chair the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
—Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, to chair the House Financial Services Committee.
—Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., to chair the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
—Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, to chair the House Homeland Security Committee.
—Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., to chair the House Judiciary Committee.
—Rep. Bob Bishop, R-Utah, to chair the House Natural Resources Committee.
—Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, to chair the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.
—Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, to chair the House Small Business Committee.
—Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., to chair the House Transportation Committee.
—Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., to chair the House Veterans' Affairs Committee.
Associated Press writer Donna Cassata contributed to this report.
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