Looking at the Race to Succeed Paul Ryan as Ways and Means Chair

Ways and Means Committee Meeting
A meeting of the Ways and Means Committee. Via its Facebook page

With [mc_name name=’Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’R000570′ ] ascending to the Speaker’s chair in the very near future, it is important to take a look at who will be the new chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. As you might know, this is probably the single most important and influential committee in the House, as it has jurisdiction over all tax-writing and revenue raising measures, among other things. In fact, before the advent of the formal positions of Majority and Minority Leaders in 1899, the chair and ranking member of this committee were considered the floor leaders of their parties in the House.

So, understandably, it is a big deal who is going to be chair of the committee once Ryan leaves. There are three main candidates for the position we should look at: [mc_name name=’Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-OH)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’T000462′ ], [mc_name name=’Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’B000755′ ], and [mc_name name=’Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’N000181′ ]. As you might expect from both their HAFA scores and the fact that this committee has such a vital role in funding our government, none of the three are fire-in-the-belly conservatives. Here’s a brief look at each:

[mc_name name=’Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-OH)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’T000462′ ]: He has represented Ohio’s 12 district, centered on the northern and eastern Columbus suburbs, since 2001. He is a Boehner loyalist and a prominent member of the Republican Main Street Partnership, and he is friends with proud squish Steve LaTourette, the chair the Partnership. For conservatives, at least, this alone ought to disqualify him from leading such a committee. In his own words, he has also stated that his reason for going to Washington was “to govern” not to “throw bombs“. Unsurprisingly, RedState has generally not been kind to him. In his favor, he has authored two fairly conservative bills in the last couple of years, the America’s Small Business Tax Relief Act of 2014 and the Save American Workers Act of 2013. The former would allow businesses to increase the cap on investments businesses can deduct from taxable income; the latter would raise the qualification for full-time work to 40 hours, as an anti-Obamacare measure. The White House threatened to veto both bills, so that should be a mark in both’s favor. He’s also expressed some rather deep concerns on the IRS scandal. On the whole, though, he’s still very much a creature of the Republican Establishment, and I can’t see him standing up to [mc_name name=’Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’R000570′ ] any more than he stood up to Boehner, which I cannot think of a single instance of him actually doing. While none of the choices are outstanding, he is the worst of all three current and potential candidates for the position.

[mc_name name=’Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’B000755′ ]: He has represented Texas’ 8th district, which covers a chunk of the state north and west of Houston, since 1997. While his HAFA score leaves a lot to be desired, he is probably the most desirable of the three candidates for the chairmanship. He is also the current chairman of the Joint Economic Committee. He has pushed a few notable conservative ideas in the past, with the most notable being the Maximizing America’s Prosperity Act and the Sound Dollar Act. In brief, his most recent iteration of the MAP act would cap spending to 19% of potential GDP and gradually shrink that to 16% over ten years. The Sound Dollar Act, meanwhile, would eliminate the Federal Reserve’s dual mandate of controlling employment and inflation with a single mandate of maintaining the dollar’s price stability. He has also introduced the American Research and Competitiveness Act of 2014, which earned a veto threat from the Obama administration. As the Washington Examiner notes, while he is not a declared candidate yet, he did run against Ryan last time, so it is reasonable to conclude he will run again. While we shouldn’t expect him to be joining the House Freedom Caucus anytime soon (although he is a member of the Republican Study Committee), his willingness to push for spending caps and cuts along with tax reform probably makes him the best choice, at least to me, among the three Representatives, should he run.

[mc_name name=’Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’N000181′ ]: He has represented the San Joaquin Valley area along with parts of Tulare and Fresno Counties of California since 2003, holding the 21st (2003-2013) and later the 22nd (2013-present) districts. Since he already chairs the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, he is probably the least likely of these three to gain the Ways and Means gavel, unless he steps down from the Intelligence chairmanship. As his HAFA score notes, he is not, on the whole, much better than Tiberi, record-wise. He has a lengthy friendship with Ryan, co-sponsoring several acts with him, so the latter being Speaker would be a big internal argument in his favor. However, as the earlier Examiner article notes, he is to right of both Brady and Tiberi on one major issue that’s been in the news lately: the Ex-Im Bank. Tiberi wants it reauthorized, Brady has not taken a clear position, and Nunes is in favor of phasing it out. It is also worthy of consideration that he and [mc_name name=’Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’R000575′ ] were willing to join establishment-friendly candidate Brian Ellis in his primary campaign against [mc_name name=’Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’A000367′ ] at an event. It should also be of interest that he referred to Republicans favoring a government shutdown in 2013 as “lemmings with suicide vests”, although in fairness, he is more than willing to call out the Bay Area Liberals and their ideological friends as well. Nunes is not yet an official candidate, but he’s apparent very interested in the position. To me, he is the middle option between Tiberi and Brady. He’s not quite the pain in the nether regions to conservatives that Tiberi is, but his record is still worse than Brady’s.

The smart money, so to speak, appears to be on this being a two-man race between Tiberi and Brady. This is probably how we can expect the race to actually play out. Nunes already chairs one of the other powerful Congressional committees, and I don’t think they’ll let him step down from the Intelligence chairmanship for thisone when there are two other prominent candidates for the job, even if he is a friend of Paul Ryan.

Again, none of these candidates are particularly great. Among the current Ways and Means members, who are the only ones with any prayer of getting the gavel, [mc_name name=’Rep. Tom Price (R-GA)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’P000591′ ] would probably be the best choice, but Price is probably pretty comfy chairing the Budget Committee. [mc_name name=’Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’J000174′ ] is another possible option, but at age 85, he is probably too old for the position, even though fellow Texan Ralph Hall chaired the Science, Space, and Technology Committee when he was verging on 90.

It is an unfortunate fact that the Ways and Means Committee is not where one goes in Washington to find rock-ribbed conservatives. That is something conservatives in and out of Congress should change over the intermediate and long term, but right now, we should focus on having the best chairman possible. Right now, it seems to me that [mc_name name=’Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’B000755′ ] is our best choice. He has put forward some concrete and detailed ideas on how to reform our taxation and monetary systems, and neither Nunes nor Tiberi have put forward the kind of detailed ideas he has to control Washington’s spending. Is he the ideal candidate? Of course not, but to me, he’s certainly the best of the likely candidates.