The rare-mid-session race for one of the most prestigious gavels in Congress kicked off in recent weeks when it became clear that then Chairman Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) would succeed Rep. John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) as speaker of the House.
Brady’s nomination is also the latest victory for the small group of hard-line conservatives who helped force Boehner’s ouster. The race to replace Ryan as chairman came down to Brady, a southern conservative with a strong background in healthcare policy, and Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio), a business-friendly Boehner ally with a history of working with Democrats.
Ways and Means oversees some of the most important issues on the Republican agenda — including tax policy, trade, Social Security and Medicare — making its chairmanship one of the most coveted positions in Congress.
Following his meeting on Wednesday with the Steering Committee, a panel of lawmakers led by the speaker that nominates committee chairs, Brady said as chairman he would focus on rewriting the tax code, expanding trade opportunities in new markets, overhauling Social Security and Medicare and replacing Obamacare with a new “patient centered” system.
“I’m a pro-growth conservative advancing a pro-growth agenda,” said Brady, who currently chairs the panel’s health subcommittee.
Brady’s main focus in recent years has been on attacking the Affordable Care Act and pushing for expanded trade. He also served as the chairman of the little-known Joint Economic Committee, one of four joint committees with members from both the House and the Senate.
On Thursday, Brady said the committee has to work quickly this year to address a group of temporary tax breaks and benefits known as extenders. Many of the provisions, including key business tax deductions, are set to expire at the end of the year.
“One of the immediate steps to overall tax reform is making permanent key provisions in the temporary extenders,” Brady said. “That will be our first priority.”
Brady entered the race as the favorite due to his seniority on the committee and his nomination is expected to easily be approved by the full conference. He is expected to have unanimous support from the Texas delegation, the largest state group in the House GOP, and he is a member of the 170 member Republican Study Committee.
Brady, who was first elected to Congress in 1996, will become the seventh Texas Republican to chair a House committee.
Several members of the Steering Committee said that while Tiberi is well liked, Brady’s experience was a deciding factor.
We considered “his record and his experience on the committee and on the joint [economic] committee,” said Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.)
Going into Wednesday’s vote it was unclear who Ryan favored in the race, but lawmakers said he weighed in on behalf of Brady at the Steering Committee meeting.
“He said from his experience of being a chairman that he felt like Kevin was the guy, I’m sure that carried a lot of weight,” said Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.). “I think seniority plays a bigger role in Ways and Means than in any other committee.”
Brady has close ties to House leadership. When in Washington he shares a house with Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and two other House Republicans.
“Don’t think this gets you out of doing the dishes though!,” Scalise said in a tweet congratulating Brady.
This is Brady’s second run at the chairmanship, after being passed over for the gavel when Ryan leap-frogged him at the beginning of this Congress.
He has been criticized by lobbyists for his lack-luster fundraising performance and relatively weak private-sector connections. But those attributes have become assets as the anti-establishment wing of the party grows in influence.
Brady will have to work closely with the new speaker, who has made overhauling the tax code and entitlement programs the cornerstone of his career. Ryan can be expected to continue to show a deep interest in the committee’s work — he called being Ways and Means chairman his dream job.
“Clearly these are issues that are in his wheelhouse,” Brady said.
Brady is second in seniority among Republicans on the panel behind Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas), who did not not seek to replace Ryan. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the panel’s third ranking Republican, was considering a race but opted to stay as chairman of the Intelligence Committee at Ryan’s urging.
“Though Congressman Nunes has been a terrific ally and staunch defender of conservative principles on the Ways and Means Committee, I am grateful for his continued leadership of the Intelligence Committee,” Ryan said in a release late last month.