Named the 58th most powerful person in finance on the Worth 2015 Power 100
Q: AS CHAIRMAN OF HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS, YOU HELPED PASS “FAST TRACK” AUTHORITY ON THE TRANS-PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP FOR THE PRESIDENT. HOW DID IT FEEL TO WORK IN CONCERT WITH A LONGTIME OPPONENT?
A: Trade is good for America, so I was happy to work with anyone to get this done. We call it trade promotion authority, and it requires the president to make public the full text of a trade agreement at least 60 days before it’s sent to Congress for a vote. So now the American people will get to see what’s in the TPP agreement and make their own decisions.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE POWERFUL IN CONGRESS?
My advice would be, don’t think about who you want to be—think about what you want to do. The people of Wisconsin’s first congressional district are the best boss I could ask for, and my job is to fight for them. The Ways and Means Committee has broad jurisdiction over a number of key policy areas—trade, the tax code, healthcare, the IRS—so I think we have an opportunity to advance legislation that improves people’s lives. But being successful means really understanding the policy that you want to advance.
ARE THERE ANY OBLIGATIONS THAT GO ALONG WITH THAT POWER?
I’d say it differently: It’s not power; it’s a duty. Every member of Congress has an obligation to uphold the Constitution and represent the best interests of their constituents.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT IN THE PAST YEAR?
Passing trade promotion authority was a big achievement. We also enacted the first real entitlement reforms in decades by directing Medicare to reimburse doctors for the quality, not the quantity, of care.
YOUR BIGGEST FAILURE?
I’m still upset about the Packers’ late-game meltdown to the Seahawks in the NFC championship.
WHAT’S THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE FACING YOU IN THE YEAR AHEAD?
In a presidential election year, particularly when the incumbent president isn’t running again, you can enter a lame duck phase pretty quickly. So the challenge will be advancing reforms—like paying for our highways or fixing our tax code—in that environment.
YOU HAVE STATED YOUR OPPOSITION TO THE EXPORT-IMPORT BANK. HOW WOULD GETTING RID OF THE EX-IM HELP AMERICAN BUSINESSES?
The Export-Import Bank is a very clear example of crony capitalism. Much of the assistance goes to large corporations
that will do fine without putting taxpayer money on the line.
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST ECONOMIC THREAT TO AMERICA?
Our national debt. We now owe over $18 trillion, and it’s only going to grow as baby boomers retire and the work force shrinks. We need a plan to pay down the debt and grow the economy. That’s why I believe that tax reform, welfare reform and entitlement reform are so critical for us as a country.
DID YOU ENJOY RUNNING FOR VICE PRESIDENT? DO YOU EVER MISS IT, AND WOULD YOU CONSIDER ANOTHER CAMPAIGN FOR THE WHITE HOUSE?
My family and I enjoyed the 2012 campaign. My kids loved being able to see the country and it was an honor to be selected by Mitt [Romney] as his vice presidential nominee. I wish the outcome were different, but I don’t dwell in the past, so I don’t think about it often. Right now, I’m focused on my job in Congress and on being a good dad and husband.