Heard on the Hill

Finance Committee Mourns Loss of Longtime Republican Staffer

Jim Lyons was a veteran tax counsel

Senate Finance Committee tax counsel Jim Lyons, back, left — pictured here at a Senate Finance Committee hearing in 2013 with Sens. Orrin G. Hatch, left, and Charles E. Grassley — died on Thursday. (Photo By Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

Longtime Senate Finance tax counsel Jim Lyons died Thursday, the committee confirmed Friday morning.

"Smart as a whip, Jim was a tough but fair negotiator during some of Congress's most consequential economic debates and a dogged defender of pure, sound tax policy. His quick wit brought ease during times of gridlock," Finance Chairman Orrin G. Hatch of Utah said in a statement. "His keen political sense often put naysayers back on their heels during the toughest of tax debates. Even more, Jim had the heart of a lion."

Lyons suffered what was described as a massive case of cardiac arrest during a charity basketball game at George Washington University on Sept. 20.

"He was as kind as he was smart — a rare combination in this town — and a cherished friend and colleague to so many. Jim was a part of our family, the congressional community, and could always be counted on. My heart is heavy and my thoughts and prayers are with Jim's parents, Ann and Steve, as well as his older brother Steve, and of course, his beloved dog, Buddy. We truly lost one of the greats today," Hatch said.

[Senate Staffer Suffers Cardiac Arrest at Charity Basketball Game]

Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, currently the ranking Democrat on the Finance panel, also offered condolences in a statement to Roll Call.

“On behalf of the Democratic members of the Senate Finance Committee, and our staffs, I want to express deep sympathy to the family and friends of Jim Lyons. Jim was a fine tax lawyer and an even better person, bringing dedication, expertise, judgment, and a sense of perspective and good humor to his work every day," Wyden said. "We were lucky to have known him, and our thoughts and prayers are with Ann, Steve, Steve, and our colleagues on the Finance Committee."

At the end of an open meeting of the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday morning, Commissioner Michael O'Rielly made the somewhat unexpected comment that Lyons was expected to be taken off life support later in the day.

O'Rielly said after the meeting that he had been getting regular updates on Lyons' condition by e-mail.

"I wasn't his closest friend, but it's one of those things where Capitol Hill is a deep community even if you fight on a daily basis on politics or on policy," O'Rielly said.

Before moving to the FCC, O'Rielly worked for Senate Republican Whips Jon Kyl and John Cornyn, both members of the Finance Committee.

Before joining the Senate Finance Committee staff in 2008 when Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa was the ranking Republican, Lyons was a trial attorney at the Justice Department handling tax cases, as well as a tax counsel with the House Ways and Means Committee.

Alisha Green contributed to this report.Contact Lesniewski at NielsLesniewski@cqrollcall.com and follow him on Twitter @nielslesniewski.

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.