GOP wins mean big change in focus for powerful Hill committees

Americans cast their ballots Tuesday in House, Senate and statewide races.
By Lori Montgomery and Brady Dennis
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, November 3, 2010; 11:39 AM

Riding a tide of voter outrage over government spending and federal deficits, the Republicans who will take over the House of Representatives in January are vowing to reshape the federal budget and the nation's approach to economic policy.

In addition to repealing President Obama's health-care law, rewriting his Wall Street reforms and blocking scheduled tax hikes for the wealthy, Republicans say they will balance the budget and wipe out a deficit that approached $1.3 trillion last year.

Obama, too, says he is committed to deficit reduction, but it is not clear whether the White House can find common ground with the resurgent Republicans, especially as both parties head into the 2012 presidential campaign.

The first test of this relationship will come later this month, when lawmakers return to Washington for a lame-duck legislative session dedicated to taxes and spending.

In the meantime, here is a look at the key players on economic issues and the positions they are poised to claim in a GOP-controlled House:

* Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), likely next chairman of the House Budget Committee.

Ryan, 40, is one of the leading intellectual lights of the national Republican Party, recognized by Obama and congressional Democrats as a serious thinker on the budget and economic issues. His Roadmap for America's Future, a plan to wipe out deficits that was first unveiled in 2008, includes the most explicit ideas offered by any sitting lawmaker for solving the nation's budget woes.

The Roadmap proposes broad-based tax reform with lower rates on income and a shift toward taxing consumption; lower Social Security benefits for wealthy retirees and a shift toward private accounts; and the replacement of Medicare and Medicaid with vouchers and state block grants.

Democrats have hammered the Roadmap, arguing that it would abandon the elderly without balancing the budget, and few Republicans have publicly endorsed its controversial provisions. But budget experts in both parties say elements of Ryan's plan are likely to be required in any serious deficit-reduction effort, and Ryan is in a position to advance his ideas as a member of Obama's deficit commission, which is expected to issue a report Dec. 1.

Ryan would take the lead in proposing cuts to the nation's more than $3 trillion budget and would shape the Republican vision for a smaller federal government when the House attempts to adopt a budget resolution early next year. He would replace Rep. John M. Spratt Jr. (D-S.C.), the current House budget chairman, who lost his reelection bid.

*Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), likely next chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Camp, 57, is a low-key but influential insider who has quietly climbed the ranks of the Republican Party since he was first elected from his central Michigan district in 1990. An ardent advocate of free trade, lower taxes and repealing Obama's health-care law, Camp's ascension to the chairmanship of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee would give him wide dominion over a range of key economic issues.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2010 The Washington Post Company