Updated: 10:46 p.m.
Rep. Richard Neal (Mass.) leapfrogged Rep. Sander Levin (Mich.) on Wednesday in their competition to secure the top Democratic slot on the Ways and Means Committee, according to Democratic sources.
The House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee voted 23-22 Wednesday evening to pass over Levin, the current chairman of the powerful tax-writing panel, and install Neal as its ranking member in the 112th Congress.
The Democratic Caucus will have to ratify the Steering Committee’s recommendation. According to a letter from Neal seeking support from colleagues Wednesday night, the Caucus will vote Thursday.
In his own letter to colleagues Wednesday, Levin said he would challenge Neal in the Caucus vote. He argued that the Steering vote should have been a tie, but one unnamed supporter was delayed on the House floor and unable to make it to the committee’s vote. The office of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) confirmed late Wednesday that hers was the missing vote and that she supports Levin.
“I ask for your vote as Ranking Member of the Ways and Means Committee when we meet in Caucus on Thursday. ... I have been an effective Chair this year, and I believe I am the best person to meet the challenges our Caucus faces in the 112th Congress,” he wrote.
Neal “is taking nothing for granted,” according to his spokesman, William Tranghese. “He will continue to campaign Member to Member until the final vote is counted tomorrow.”
Neal, who ranks sixth in seniority on the panel, is popular on K Street because he is seen as being more pro-business than Levin.
The two have been working to secure support from fellow committee members and steering panel members for the past several months, and both upped their campaign contributions to colleagues and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Neal said that he was “confident” going into his presentation and that he had done the work to earn the position.
Levin took the lead on the tax-writing panel this year after Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) stepped aside amid a series of ethics problems.