House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. speaks during an end-of-the-year news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 17, 2015, as the Congress moves toward passage of a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

RYAN MAKES MOVES TO SHAPE GOP POLICY. Thursday is a big day in the GOP — lawmakers are in Baltimore for their annual party retreat, and the presidential candidates are prepping for another debate in South Carolina. While most eyes are on the debate, The Post’s Mike DeBonis reports House Speaker Paul D. Ryan will be quietly working to drive the GOP narrative in a hotel an hour north of Washington.

With the race for the nomination deeply unsettled, Ryan has moved to claim a central role in shaping the 2016 Republican agenda and promoting a high-minded vision for his party — one that is now threatened by the populist bombast of Donald Trump and other presidential candidates.

“The kind of role I envision … is to help push ideas and policies, and help make us a party of ideas and make the campaign about a better way forward instead of personalities,” Ryan said in a recent interview.

The 2012 vice presidential nominee is now vowing to turn the House into a election-year think tank, telling reporters this week’s retreat would be “the beginnings of the conversation of assembling an agenda to take to the country.”

EX-IM STRUGGLES ARE NOT OVER. Congress may have voted last year to reauthorize the Export Import Bank, but the Senate inaction on nominations has left three vacancies on the agency’s board of directors. The Hill reports that the hobbled board is limited in how much financing it can approve, and business groups are gearing up for a lobbying push to get the Senate to act.

Business groups such as the National Association of Manufacturers say returning Ex-Im to full strength soon is critical. The bank was prevented from approving any new transactions for the second half of 2015 after its charter expired and is now limited in how much financing it can provide.

“Manufacturers recognize the Ex-Im Bank’s board of directors needs a quorum to act on transactions and policy changes that require board approval, and we welcome the administration’s decision to move forward with the nomination process,” said Linda Dempsey, vice president of international economic affairs for the National Association of Manufacturers.  

“We urge the Senate to take action quickly on this nomination and help ensure the Ex-Im Bank, a critical trading tool for manufacturers of all sizes, is able to fulfill its mission of supporting U.S. job growth through exports.”

DEVIN NUNES’S BUSINESS TAX PROPOSALS GETTING MORE ATTENTION. It may seem like every candidate, member of Congress and lobbyist has their own plan for revamping the nation’s much maligned tax code, but the Wall Street Journal reports that there’s growing support for ideas floated by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.).

Mr. Nunes, a senior Republican on the Ways and Means Committee, wants to lower the tax rate on business income to 25%, instead of the 35% corporate tax rate or the 39.6% top rate on business income reported on individual tax returns. He would let businesses write off their capital investments immediately and repeal all business tax credits and the deduction for business borrowing costs.

“What people are realizing is that tinkering with the tax code won’t necessarily grow the economy,” he said in an interview on Tuesday. At the same time, he said, “by not touching the personal side of the code, you make the politics of this a lot easier.”

Mr. Nunes’s plan, essentially a tax on business cash flow, would also lighten the tax burden on U.S. companies’ foreign income, repeal the corporate alternative minimum tax and eliminate other targeted tax breaks. The plan’s removal of the interest deduction could be a big problem for the financial services industry, Martin Sullivan of Tax Analysts wrote last year.