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Paul Ryan Presents GOP Term-Limits Dilemma

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
The Republican Steering Committee might consider next year whether to grant Rep. Paul Ryan a term-limits waiver as Budget chairman in the next Congress.

Republican chairmanship term limits are bringing a dilemma for the party in the next Congress: whether to break the rules for a promising intellectual leader of the party while denying his ambitious colleagues the same opportunity.

Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, is term-limited at the end of this Congress, having ascended to the ranking member position on the panel in 2006. Republicans count time served as chairman and ranking member toward term limits.

GOP officials and aides said they expect significant pressure for the Steering Committee to grant Ryan, the public face of House Republicans on budget and economic issues, a waiver from the six-year term limits rule, allowing him to stay on.

That’s especially so because there’s no other obvious place for the Wisconsin Republican to ascend to in the House.

Ryan’s “dream” is to one day become chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, sources said, but Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), chairman of the tax panel, has until 2014 before he faces term limits.

While there is speculation that presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney could select Ryan for the vice presidential nomination or to head the Treasury Department, absent that, many Republicans expect him to stay at the Budget Committee for another two years before making a bid for the Ways and Means gavel.

“If Ryan remains in the House, the best thing for House Republicans and the most natural progression for him would be to remain Budget chairman for one more term and then become chairman of the Ways and Means Committee,” said a Republican official familiar with the situation.

But Republicans have been stingy about issuing waivers for chairmanship term limits since the rule was implemented in 1995. And a waiver for Ryan could roil other GOP chairmen who would like to stay on. A spokesman for Ryan did not return a request for comment.

Rep. John Mica, chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is also term-limited at the end of this Congress.

The Florida Republican recently said he is seeking a waiver. He faces a tough primary against freshman Rep. Sandy Adams and has been touting his seniority and sway to voters.

In an interview with Roll Call, Mica broadened the horizons of his ambitions, predicting he would get “either a full committee [chairmanship] or a major leadership position in the House.”

According to Mica, the question of waivers and chairmanships is still wide open.

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