Brady wins Ways and Means chairmanship

Rep. Kevin BradyKevin BradyMnuchin meets with agriculture groups on tax reform GOP-controlled Congress nears legislative triumph — on Russia Healthcare debacle raises pressure for GOP on taxes MORE (R-Texas) won a hotly contested race to be the next chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday, succeeding former Chairman Paul RyanPaul RyanOPINION | Healthcare vote a political death wish for GOP in 2018 The one part of ObamaCare that must be repealed now Senate Dems warn they will block recess appointments MORE (R-Wis.), who stepped down last week after he was elected Speaker.

The influential Steering Committee, which has the power to award committee gavels, elected Brady over Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio), who had touted his strong fundraising abilities in his bid to leapfrog the more-senior Brady.

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Ryan wielded enormous clout in the meeting because he controls five votes in the process, and he sided with Brady.

Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) told reporters after the vote that the new Speaker told the Steering Committee that he thought “Kevin was the guy for it.”  

Brady is the second-most senior member of the panel; Tiberi is fourth. Both held subcommittee gavels on the panel.

The vote took place in a closed-door meeting after the two candidates made presentations to the roughly 30-member Steering panel. The selections must be ratified by the full House conference on Thursday.

In a related move, Rep. Tom Rice (R-S.C.) was chosen to fill a vacancy on the panel. He was one of 15 lawmakers who asked to replace Ryan as a member on Ways and Means.

The Ways and Means Committee is regarded as one of the most powerful panels on Capitol Hill, with jurisdiction over taxes, trade, healthcare and Social Security.

Brady, a former Texas state legislator first elected to Congress in 1996, had been the front-runner to succeed Ryan. Brady had run against Ryan for the chairmanship in 2014, when he was defeated.  

He was the preferred candidate of conservatives, and he shares a house in D.C. with two members on the Steering panel, Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.). Three Texas colleagues also had votes on the Steering Committee, giving Brady a definite edge.

The Texan told reporters ahead of the vote that his message to colleagues was that he would work to advance tax reform, replace ObamaCare and expand global trade as chairman of the panel.

One of Brady’s initial tasks will be to deal with a sweeping Asia-Pacific trade deal. Text for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is expected to be released as early as Thursday afternoon.

Brady said he would like to move quickly to get the TPP passed by early next year, rather than wait until a lame-duck session.

In recent days, Tiberi made an aggressive play for the gavel. His allies argued that his ties to K Street and his fundraising efforts would be a major asset given Ryan’s remarks that he wouldn’t spend weekends on the road raising cash for the party.

Texas already holds six gavels in the House, a fact that some thought could help Tiberi and hurt Brady.

A close friend of fellow Ohio Republican John Boehner, Tiberi leaned on the former Speaker’s vast network of allies and aides during his race. But some conservatives viewed Tiberi as too cozy with the former Boehner, whom they pressured to resign earlier this fall. 

Just before the vote, Tiberi said he had no regrets about his decision to challenge Brady.

“I always feel good — I'm a glass half-full guy,” he said. “I wouldn't have done it if I didn't think I was the best candidate.”

Tiberi said he believes he and Brady are pretty similar on policy but that he better understands what it is like to represent a swing district given his initial experience in Washington. He noted that his “ruby-red” district was once more of a swing district itself.

“I get what swing-district members go through, the flak they go through and taking tough votes,” he said.

Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) suggested after the vote that the committee wouldn't work by a top-down approach. 

“Everybody that's on Ways and Means is going to be [involved]. We've talked about doing some bold things. Ways and Means is a key element,” he said. “Who's ever on that committee is going to be very busy.”

He declined to say whether he voted for Brady or Tiberi. “I like everyone,” McCarthy said.

Rep. Steve Scalise (La.), the Republican whip, hailed Brady's work ethic and his policy chops.

“His passion for lower tax rates, for wanting to do real healthcare reform, to really get the economic growth that you can achieve as chairman of that committee — I think he's going to do a great job,” Scalise said. “He's a respected conservative who believes in growth and getting the economy going again.”

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the fourth-ranking GOP leader, said both candidates were “excellent,” but declined to say how she voted. 

“I think it was a thoughtful discussion, and ultimately we made a great choice,” she said.

Mike Lillis contributed to this piece.

This story was updated at 5:47 p.m.