The Republican Steering Committee has chosen Texas’s Kevin Brady, a longtime ally of Paul Ryan, to succeed the new speaker as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Wednesday afternoon, in the same conference room where Ryan announced his conditional bid for speaker of the House last month, members of the Steering Committee — which includes Ryan, the rest of the GOP leadership team, each sitting committee chair, and a number of rank-and-file lawmakers — convened to debate the two-person contest between Brady and Ohio representative Pat Tiberi. After over an hour of deliberation, preceded by ten-minute speeches and question-and-answer sessions with both candidates, members declared Brady, previously ranked number two on the panel, the victor.
It’s the “dream scenario,” Brady told reporters after his speech. “Paul Ryan is our speaker, he’s absolutely committed to a pro-growth agenda, and Ways and Means will play a crucial role in moving the big issues forward and uniting the conference.”
In the week preceding the race, members handicapped it as a genuine toss-up: Both candidates touted a similar legislative agenda focused on overhauling the tax code, specifically as it pertains to entitlements.
Brady formerly chaired the health subcommittee. He’s found favor among fiscal hawks for his past efforts to maintain sequestration-budget caps. His tight friendship with Ryan goes back to 1999, when Ryan first entered Congress and the two men found themselves together on Ways and Means, always spotted sitting next to each other. He challenged Ryan for the Committee’s gavel last year, in a move that was rumored to be a tactical ploy to catch the Steering Committee’s eye, setting him up as a natural successor to Ryan if he left to run for a leadership post.
In his own campaign, Tiberi touted his impressive track record as a fundraiser — a core part of the Ways and Means chair’s duties. Since 2000, when he first ran for Congress, Tiberi has raised over $23 million, funneling $3 million to GOP candidates and committees, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. He has carved out his niche as an aggressive proponent of free trade and small-business tax relief. He recently spearheaded efforts to speed up debate on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Obama-negotiated trade deal that has drawn the ire of the House’s rightmost flank.
Brady emerged from the room naturally in good spirits, emphasizing the outsize role of the tax-writing committee going forward. He added that he never thought it would hurt his candidacy being from Texas, from which six—and now seven—committee chairmen hail.
“We’re not the party of quotas,” he said. “We’re the party of Americans.”
Ways and Means is perhaps the most prestigious chairmanship in the House, and Brady will be called to exercise the power of his new gavel almost immediately, with an early December deadline for funding the government looming. By making tax reform a centerpiece of his agenda, Ryan has guaranteed that Brady should remain an influential figure in the GOP conference going forward.
Ryan, who was allotted five votes in the contest, did not officially endorse either candidate.