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Ryan, out of 2016 race, sets committee as command central

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(Bloomberg) — The House Ways and Means Committee will be “command central” for a Republican agenda that would revamp the U.S. tax code, promote trade agreements and repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), Rep. Paul Ryan said today.

Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, is the new chairman of the panel, and he spoke today about the economy, among other issues, at the committee’s first meeting of the year.

“This latest job report is simply the nicest car in the junkyard,” said Ryan, the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee, who said yesterday he won’t run for president next year.

See also: Scott Walker tuning up for 2016.

The economy added 252,000 jobs in December and the jobless rate dropped to 5.6 percent, the lowest level since June 2008, according to a Labor Department report released last week. The report also showed a decline in earnings and labor force participation.

At Ways and Means, Ryan said, he will seek fast-track authority for President Barack Obama, which would make it easier to reach trade agreements, and try to change what he described as a broken tax code. PPACA, he said, should be repealed and replaced, though he said full repeal probably can’t happen until after Obama leaves office.

Rep. Sander Levin, the top Democrat on Ways and Means, resisted Ryan’s characterization of the economy and blamed Republican opposition as the roadblock to faster growth.

‘Terribly misguided’

“The reference to a junkyard is terribly misguided,” said Levin of Michigan. “The economy of this country has been put back on its feet and it’s moving ahead.”

One model for the future, Ryan said, is the growth that occurred in the late-1990s, which he attributed to the combination of a Republican Congress and Democratic President Bill Clinton that restructured welfare programs, cut capital gains taxes and promoted trade.

“We saw very robust, strong economic growth across the board,” he said. “It was a good time.”

Democrats have contended that the growth in that era occurred after 1993 tax increases that Republicans opposed.