Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), chairman of the powerful tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, plans to retire after his current term, he announced Monday.
Camp said in a statement that his decision "was reached after much consideration and discussion with my family. Serving in Congress is the great honor of my professional life. I am deeply grateful to the people of the 4th Congressional District for placing their trust in me. Over the years, their unwavering support has been a source of strength, purpose and inspiration. During the next nine months, I will redouble my efforts to grow our economy and expand opportunity for every American by fixing our broken tax code, permanently solving physician payments for seniors, strengthening the social safety net and finding new markets for U.S. goods and services."
Camp’s retirement was expected by many inside the Capitol. The 60-year-old has served in Congress since 1991 and assumed control of the committee when Republicans retook control of the House in 2011. But his six-year term as top Republican on the panel is scheduled to conclude at the end of the year. He battled cancer last year and considered running for Michigan's open U.S. Senate seat, but opted instead to put all his political and legislative muscle into the fight to overhaul the tax code.
His partner in that effort was supposed to be the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Max Baucus, the Montana Democrat who announced his own retirement plans last year. At that time, Baucus said he would expend his last political breaths trying to fight for the complicated tax overhaul, but by December it was clear to all sides that this divided Congress lacked the willpower to take on such a behemoth task that required serious examination of many financial sacred cows – whether to trim the mortgage interest deduction, how to tax the earnings of private equity firms and hedge funds, what the the top income tax rate should be.
Baucus then accepted President Obama’s appointment to be ambassador to China, retiring from the Senate in February and leaving tax reform stalled. Camp released his own plan in March, to much fanfare because it tackled several serious issues, but it was immediately dismissed by House GOP leaders and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as something that would not happen this year.
The battle to succeed Camp at Ways and Means is a two-way race between Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the clear front-runner, and Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Tex.), who is more senior on the panel than Ryan.
Ryan is scheduled to release his budget blueprint Tuesday, and the former 2012 vice presidential nominee has stated publicly that he wants to take over the gavel from Camp, although there is still a chance that Ryan might run for president in 2016.
As Ways and Means chairman, Camp is among the most powerful men in Washington, with jurisdiction over taxes, Medicare, Social Security — and the budget debate. He's been universally described as "nice" and collegial and an antithesis of the brash, iron-fisted chairmen of the past. If Ryan has earned credit for shaping the GOP’s big-picture vision, Camp has been cast as the guy in the trenches thrashing out policy — or deciding when to back away. When Ryan’s controversial plan to privatize Medicare was under siege in 2012, Camp helped quiet the uproar by announcing that his committee would not advance the Medicare plan, which had zero chance of passing anyway.
Camp is the 26th member of the House and the fourth member of the Michigan congressional delegation to announce plans to step down. Already Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) – the longest-serving member in congressional history -- have announced their retirements. This year, more House Republicans than House Democrats have announced plans to retire.
In a statement, Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who leads the National Republican Congressional Committee, called Camp "a role model to us all" who has "fought tooth and nail for the fiscal reforms our country needs." Walden added: "It simply won’t be the same around here without Dave’s leadership."
Camp's north central Michigan district leans Republican and will be expected to remain in GOP hands in the November midterm election, barring an upset. Mitt Romney won 54 percent there in 2012. The nonpartisan Cook Report had rated Camp's seat as "Solid Republican" under the assumption that he would run for another term.
Potential candidates looking to replace Camp will have little time to decide whether to run. The filing deadline is April 22.
Sean Sullivan, Robert Costa and Lori A. Montgomery contributed to this report.