House Ways and Means chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., speaks with Roll Call in the House Ways and Means Committee room in the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, April 30, 2015.
Bill Clark—CQ Roll Call
September 21, 2015 1:39 PM EDT

Former vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan is getting into the 2016 race—as a moderator.

The Wisconsin Republican plans to lead a January forum on opportunity with the 2016 hopefuls for the Jack Kemp Foundation. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina also plans to guide the forum, scheduled in his home state.

“There are few challenges tougher than the fight against poverty, and we need all hands on deck,” Ryan said in a statement. “I’m looking forward to exploring ideas about how we can expand opportunity in America.”

The candidates are not expected to appear on stage together, and the event falls outside the Republican National Committee’s list of sanctioned debates. All presidential candidates have been invited, the foundation said, but none have confirmed they will attend yet.

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Ryan, the Chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, was former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s running mate in 2012. Ryan declined to seek the nomination in 2016 and instead has focused on his job in the House.

He’s a natural fit to moderate the forum, which is scheduled for Jan. 9 and comes less than a month before Iowa has its leadoff caucuses. Ryan has been a leading voice inside his party on issues of urban development and poverty and he delivered a well-received speech on poverty during a visit to Cleveland during the 2012 campaign. The remarks came too late, however, to remedy Democrats’ unyielding criticism of the GOP nominees as too focused on the rich.

Jack Kemp, an NFL quarterback-turned-congressman, was the GOP’s vice presidential nominee in 1996 under Sen. Bob Dole. Like Romney-Ryan, the Dole-Kemp ticket came up short.

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Write to Philip Elliott at philip.elliott@time.com.

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