Greg Nash

The head-to-head contest for the chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee will hinge Wednesday on the man who last held the powerful panel’s gavel: newly minted Speaker Paul Ryan.

Reps. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio) have been in a tight, two-man battle for the gavel since Ryan’s ascension. After repeatedly refusing to reveal his pick, the Wisconsin Republican is expected to cast the deciding votes, marking one of his first major decisions as the top House leader.

{mosads}Both contenders will make their final plea Wednesday afternoon to the 33 members of the House Republican Steering Committee they have each courted intensely over the last week.

“I’ve done everything but serve breakfast in bed,” Brady said with a laugh in an interview with The Hill on Tuesday.

Ryan controls five of the 20 votes a candidate would need to become chairman, as well as strong sway over the two votes allotted to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). The pair will be together Wednesday morning for a regularly scheduled leadership meeting.

The newly appointed Speaker again declined to name his pick in a briefing with reporters Tuesday. His spokeswoman, AshLee Strong, said he would not “endorse anyone publicly,” leaving open the chance that he might do so behind closed doors.

In interviews with The Hill on Tuesday, neither candidate would say how much support he’d secured on the Steering panel or whether he’d heard signals from Ryan.

“I wouldn’t be running if I didn’t think I could win,” Tiberi said. “I understand I’m the underdog for a few reasons. … Sometimes the underdog wins.”

“We’re going to run like we’re behind all the way on this,” Brady said, also expressing confidence.

Even as the new Speaker has been careful not to disclose his pick, he gave remarks Sunday that could help the case for Tiberi, stressing that lawmakers should be able to rise in the ranks based on merits, rather than seniority, in the House.

“Look, I was something like 13 people deep when I became head of the Budget Committee. I was not the most senior person when I became the head of the Ways and Means Committee. So here in the House Republican Conference, we have a meritocracy system, unlike, say, the Democratic Caucus or the way the Senate works,” Ryan said in an appearance on “Meet the Press.”

Tiberi, who is a member of the Steering Committee but will appoint a proxy Wednesday, said members don’t know yet how much clout Ryan will have in the final vote.

“Obviously the Speaker’s opinion matters, but we don’t know how he will run this meeting. This is the very first Steering Committee [vote] he’s going to run,” he said. “Everybody has their own style.”

It’s the closest contest for the House Ways and Means chairmanship in two decades, and one that takes place ahead of an election year with high-stakes debates on tax and trade. Brady’s strength is his seniority, with top roles at two subcommittees as well as the House-Senate Joint Economic Committee.

But he would also be the seventh chairman to hail from Texas out of the state’s 25 House Republicans, a factor that has raised some questions in the conference.

Tiberi has served for nearly as long as Brady. In his tenure, he has become the 13th most prolific fundraiser in the House, far ahead of Brady, who is 66th. Still, Tiberi’s longtime ties to former Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) could hurt his support among conservatives.

Other parts of their pitches to colleagues have sounded strikingly similar: Both have talked up tax reform — a priority of their former chairman, Ryan — as well as more a member-driven, all-inclusive process.

They have both touted experience, with Brady ranked No. 2 on the committee and Tiberi ranked No. 4, as well as their fundraising might. Tiberi and his allies have stressed his close ties to K Street and his own personal donations, while Brady kicked off a week of fundraisers in the week before the vote.

“I think Kevin Brady is in good shape,” said Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), a steering committee member who is backing Brady. “He’s the most senior one seeking the position and he’s been supportive of Paul Ryan, who was chairman.”

Rep. Pete Sessions, the other Texas Republican on the Steering Committee, also said Tuesday he would back Brady.

Brady had initially sought the Ways and Means chairmanship last fall but took himself out of the running, allowing Ryan to take the panel’s helm.

The Steering Committee also will choose someone to fill the opening created by Ryan’s departure.

Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) is the latest to seek the position, according to a source. That puts him among a group of other hopefuls that includes Reps. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.) and Tom Rice (R-S.C.).

Scott Wong contributed. 

Tags Kevin Brady Pat Tiberi Paul Ryan United States House Committee on Ways and Means

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