The Would-Be Chairman With Ways and Means on His Side
Assuming no more last-minute surprises this fall at the House Republican Conference, the only important personnel decision to be made in coming days is who’ll become chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.
Paul D. Ryan’s agreement to be speaker, to be formally embraced by his GOP colleagues Wednesday, means after just 10 months he must give up the job he’s always described as his top political ambition.
Kevin Brady of Texas announced Monday he wants to be the next to run the House’s most important panel, which writes tax, trade, health care and social safety net legislation. Pat Tiberi of Ohio declared his candidacy last week.
It’s not clear how quickly the gavel will be awarded, but the rank and file may not end up with much input. If Ryan makes an endorsement, it’s tough to imagine him being rebuffed on one of his first requests as speaker — especially because the committee’s work is so close to the Wisconsinite’s heart and central to his hopes of leaving an important mark from the pinnacle of House leadership.
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It’s also true the differences between Tiberi and Brady are more political and stylistic than ideological and legislative. Especially on the policies in the committee’s jurisdiction, no faction of the House GOP will have legitimate reason for a grievance no matter who gets the call.
Both are from the party’s mainstream conservative, pro-business wing. Brady, 60, ran local chambers of commerce for almost two decades before coming to the Hill. Tiberi, 53, was a real estate agent and did eight years of constituent service work for his predecessor, John R. Kasich, now Ohio’s governor and a presidential aspirant.
Both spent relatively short stints as state legislators before winning open and reliably Republican suburban House seats — Brady’s north of Houston in 1996 and Tiberi’s around Columbus four years later.
On paper, Brady is positioned just slightly more to the right. He’s taken the GOP side on 99 percent of votes this year that have broken along party lines; Tiberi’s 94 percent party unity score is the same as the House GOP average.
Brady has opposed President Barack Obama 89 percent of the time, same as the conference average, while Tiberi has bucked Obama a scant 2 points less often. Brady has higher support scores from two bellwether advocacy groups on the right, Freedom Works and Heritage Action, but his record is nowhere near the total conservative fealty those groups are seeking.
On the committee, Brady and Tiberi are in the same place, with one another and with the outgoing chairman, much more often than not. Importantly to Ryan, he could be confident either would be an ally in any effort to overhaul and simplify the tax code.
All of them went against the GOP grain and backed the tax increase on the rich that helped avert the 2012 “fiscal cliff,” and the next year Tiberi and Brady supported the budget deal Ryan cut as Budget chairman with his Democratic counterpart, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.
This year all three voted for the Trade Promotion Authority law, which will limit Congress next year to either accepting or rejecting, without alteration, the recently finished Pacific Rim trade agreement. (Tiberi, who chairs the Trade Subcommittee, was more central to getting that bill through than Brady, whose recent priorities have been more uphill: pushing to repeal the estate tax and creating a tax deduction for state sales taxes.)
The most visible recent way they’ve parted company on a high-profile issue? Tiberi was among the 42 Republicans who bucked party protocol and procedural propriety in joining the discharge petition that’s resurrected legislation to revive the Export-Import Bank. Brady did not sign, although he voted to reauthorize the bank the last time there was a floor vote, in 2012.
A top calling card for Brady’s candidacy may be that he’s third in committee seniority while his opponent is fifth. Being one of 25 House Republicans from Texas, the largest GOP delegation in that chamber, may also help; bidding to become the seventh committee chairman from the state might not.
But of the two, Tiberi appears much closer to Ryan’s inner circle and is better plugged-in with the top tier of House GOP leaders, even now that his role as confidant of Speaker John A. Boehner is ending.
Most importantly of all – especially with Ryan lowering expectations about himself as a fundraiser — Tiberi has the stronger record as both a vacuum and spray-gun of campaign cash.
The $23 million he’s brought in for his campaigns and leadership PAC during his career is exceeded by only a dozen other House members, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, and only 23 have given more to other candidates and party committees — more than $3 million in his career, $162,000 of it this year.
Brady has raised almost $14 million in Congress but has given away just $2.6 million, with only $20,000 of it this year, placing him 36th in lifetime generosity among current House members.
In this race, that money differential probably matters more than subtle distance on policy. The edge goes to Tiberi.