Ways & Means Chairman Camp to retire

Lauren Schneiderman

House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) will retire at the end of his term, he announced Monday evening.

Camp is in his last scheduled year with the powerful gavel, which had for months fueled speculation that he might call it quits after almost a quarter-century in the House.

As Ways and Means chairman, Camp had direct jurisdiction over large portions of the U.S.’s fiscal policy and economy, including the tax code, Social Security, Medicare and trade policy.

But Camp’s decision to not seek re-election also illustrates the challenges that he faced in making progress in what he has long termed his overriding goal: comprehensively overhauling the tax code for the first time in a generation.

Camp had appeared to only run into more roadblocks on his tax reform efforts in recent months, after passing on a Senate bid last year in part because he wanted to go all in on tax reform.

That was before Camp backed off his vow to mark up a tax reform bill in 2013, at a time late last year when his leadership wanted to keep their focus on the troubled rollout of ObamaCare.

Camp then released his long-awaited tax reform draft, more than three years in the making, in February – proposing to slice expensive and popular tax breaks like the deduction for home mortgage interest in exchange for lower tax rates across-the-board.

The Michigan Republican said at the time he wanted to jumpstart negotiations on Capitol Hill on an issue that interests both parties. But the response of a range of interest groups – including Wall Street, which despised a new tax on the biggest banks – underscored why his GOP colleagues were uncertain about proceeding on tax reform this year.

The looming loss of the chairmanship clearly frustrated Camp, who spent two years as Ways and Means ranking member before becoming chairman in 2011.

Camp, who was declared cancer-free after being treated for non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 2012, is also the latest in a string of senior lawmakers of both parties to announce his decision to retire.

He is the fourth House chairman to decide to retire — House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) are also heading for the exits.

His decision also marks the latest loss of a senior member of Michigan's congressional delegation. Camp, Rogers, House Dean John Dingell (D-Mich.) and Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) will all retire at the end of their terms.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) praised the retiring chairman.

"Dave Camp and I were elected to the House the same year. From the beginning, I have been impressed by his wisdom and thoughtfulness, and grateful for his friendship," Boehner said in a statement. "Along with his colleagues on the Ways and Means Committee, the entire House Republican Conference, and the whole House, I will miss him."

Camp's retirement opens up a potentially competitive district as well, though it leans fairly Republican. Mitt Romney won it by an 8-point margin in 2012, while President Obama narrowly carried the district in 2008.

Republicans predict they will hold onto Camp's seat.

"Dave Camp is a role model to us all and will be missed. For years, as Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Dave has fought tooth and nail for the fiscal reforms our country needs. Even while fighting for those reforms in Washington, he never forgot the folks back home in Midland. It simply won’t be the same around here without Dave’s leadership," National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said in a statement. "I look forward to electing and working with another Republican leader from this district."

But Democrats quickly heralded Camp's retirement as more evidence of unrest within the GOP caucus, promising they would make his seat competitive. 

“Yet another senior Republican committee chairman is abandoning John Boehner and his toxic Republican Congress. As tone-deaf House Republicans prepare to pass yet another Republican budget that heaps tax breaks on corporations and the ultra-wealthy while raising taxes on middle class families and dismantling Medicare, veteran Members are retiring rather than continue to defend these backward priorities," Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. 

 

This post was last updated at 5:50 p.m.

 

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