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NJ Republican pushes for Ways and Means seat a year after switching parties

Rep. Jefferson Van Drew (R-N.J.) is lobbying for a seat on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee a year after he pledged his "undying support" for President TrumpDonald TrumpWhat blue wave? A close look at Texas today tells of a different story Democrats go down to the wire with Manchin Trump's former bodyguard investigated in NY prosectors' probe: report MORE and switched parties.

The New Jersey Republican — who left the Democratic Party in December 2019 after voting against Trump's impeachment — received assurances last year from the president and top White House aides that they would later help him secure the committee assignment of his choice, multiple sources told The Hill.

“A year ago when the switch happened, basically Trump had said, ‘Hey, you know, we'll push for getting you on to an ‘A’ committee, basically any committee you want,' ” said one GOP source familiar with the conversation.

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“Whether or not there was an understanding of the process or not is another question.”

Ways and Means is considered an "A" committee because of the vast power it wields over issues like taxes and trade.

The president and Van Drew have maintained a close working relationship since the party switch, said a senior GOP source close to Trump.

“The president still picks up the congressman's phone call. They still talk, they're still close. And I haven't spoken to the president recently about something as specific as this, but I would have to assume the president would be fully supportive of whatever the congressman is seeking," the source said.

But securing a seat on the committee is easier said than done.

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The Ways and Means Committee is primarily made up of senior lawmakers and has often helped boost members' fundraising prowess and their overall profile in Congress.

GOP lawmakers noted that multiple members, some who hold more seniority, are also vying for the limited spots on the committee, teeing up stiff competition for the 117th Congress.

The House Republican Steering Committee, which consists of GOP leaders and regional representatives and is tasked with selecting which members sit on different panels, is expected to meet within the first few weeks of the new Congress to determine committee assignments.

The top two Republicans on the Steering Committee — Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyHillicon Valley: Cyber agency says SolarWinds hack could have been deterred | Civil rights groups urge lawmakers to crack down on Amazon's 'dangerous' worker surveillance | Manchin-led committee puts forth sprawling energy infrastructure proposal Chuck Todd reluctant to 'ban' election deniers from 'Meet the Press' GOP divided over bills targeting tech giants MORE (Calif.) and Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseHillicon Valley: Senate unanimously confirms Chris Inglis as first White House cyber czar | Scrutiny mounts on Microsoft's surveillance technology | Senators unveil bill to crack down on cyber criminals Five takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision FCC votes to advance proposed ban on Chinese telecom equipment MORE (La.) — wield the most power, with four votes allotted to McCarthy and two to Scalise. The rest of the panel’s 29 members are allotted one vote each.

A source familiar with the effort noted that Van Drew could help diversify the regional makeup of the Ways and Means Committee, adding that Rep. Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikWhite House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine Canadian ambassador calls for close coordination in handling of US border Five takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision MORE (R-N.Y.), has expressed support for him to join the panel.

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“This is where there's going to be a little bit of a dog fight, there’s a bunch of members going for this,” the GOP source said.

“So we'll all kind of see how it all shakes out. But yes, Trump and the Trump folks have been pushing for Jeff for Ways and Means. Jeff wants it obviously — it's good for his district, it’s good for his background. But, obviously, there’s a lot of other pieces in play, some more senior members want to be on the committee as well.”

Another senior aide noted the Democratic-led panel could force Van Drew to take difficult votes on issues like state and local tax deductions, a key concern in New Jersey and a factor that is likely to be taken into consideration by Steering Committee members.

While Van Drew may have high-profile members of Trump’s orbit in his corner, multiple Republicans said it might not be enough to ensure a seat on the committee.

“He's one of 10 people that are going for it, and I would put him in the bottom third of likelihood of getting it,” one GOP lawmaker said.

“I don't want to malign Van Drew or the president —I just want to say, this is a very intentional process and the president doesn't have a seat on Steering,” the lawmaker added. 

Van Drew currently sits on the House Homeland Security and Education and Labor committees.