With Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) likely to ascend to the speaker’s chair this week, a three-way race is developing to replace him as chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee.
Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), as expected, yesterday threw his hat in the ring for the gavel, joining Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio) as a declared candidate for the post. Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) is also likely to jump in after Ryan is elected speaker, according to GOP aides.
Brady has more seniority on the panel than Tiberi or Nunes, and lobbyists say that Brady is slightly favored to win the gavel, although the race remains fluid.
Colleagues considered Brady a front-runner for the position after former Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) retired last year, but House lawmakers gave the slot to Ryan once the former vice presidential nominee decided to pursue the gavel.
In a statement announcing his candidacy, Brady touted his past record on tax issues, which included a stint chairing the Joint Economic Committee.
"The next chairman of the Ways and Means Committee will have to hit the ground running," he said yesterday. "In addition to major accomplishments as leader of two subcommittees and chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, I’ve worked hard to earn a reputation for fairness, hard work and respect for members’ opinions across the spectrum."
However, one hurdle for Brady remains the fact that Texans already chair six House committees. House lawmakers may not want to give one state so much power.
Of the three contenders for the post, Brady is the lawmaker with the most energy-related contributions throughout his career on Capitol Hill.
The Houston-area politician, who was elected in 1996, had received more than $1 million tied to oil and gas interests since the late 1990s, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Anadarko Petroleum Corp. has been among his top donors.
In recent months, the American Petroleum Institute gave Brady $1,000, Exxon Mobil Corp. gave his re-election campaign $2,500 and Halliburton Co. contributed $5,000, according to Federal Election Commission records.
Tiberi, who has represented a Columbus-area district since 2001, has received almost $500,000 from electric utilities during his years on Capitol Hill and almost $400,000 from oil and gas interests. American Electric Power Co. Inc. is among his top all-time donors.
Other donations in recent months have included $1,500 from Dominion Resources Inc., $5,000 from Exelon Corp., $5,000 from Exxon Mobil and $5,000 from Koch Industries Inc.
Nunes, elected in 2002 to represent a Fresno-area district in central California, near Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), also counts Koch Industries and oil and gas interests among his top funders.
He’s recently received $4,000 from Duke Energy Corp., $2,500 from Halliburton and $4,000 from House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), a top booster of the oil and gas industry (see related story).
NextEra Energy Inc., a major wind and solar resources manager, has given to Tiberi and Nunes but tends to spread its political contributions widely.
Energy issues loom for panel
Whoever inherits the chairmanship from Ryan will face the tough political undercurrents associated with the annual push to extend the renewable production tax credit.
A spokesman for the American Energy Alliance, which has led the charge against extending the PTC, said yesterday that none of the candidates for chairman has defined himself on the incentive, according to the group’s legislative tracker on the credit, which would be extended for two years under the Senate’s tax extenders package.
"None of these candidates have publicly come out against the PTC, so there’s definitely some uncertainty," said AEA spokesman Chris Warren in an email. "But that also means there’s opportunity. If any of these potential candidates want to show that they’re serious about tax reform, then publicly opposing the PTC is a good place to start."
Of the three candidates, Brady boasts the lowest lifetime voting score as ranked by the League of Conservation Voters, at 3 percent. Nunes’ lifetime score is 4 percent, while Tiberi’s tops out at 11 percent.
Despite the low rankings for the would-be chairmen, LCV Legislative Associate Zach Drennen noted yesterday that Tiberi in 2008 supported a tax bill that would have extended the PTC, while Brady and Nunes both voted against the measure.
"From our point of view, Tiberi would be the best chairman because he has been supportive of the PTC and other clean energy provisions in the past, while the other two have not," he wrote in an email.
"That said," Drennen continued, "being chairman of the committee should be about more than a single individual’s point of view, and we’re hopeful that whoever takes the gavel will recognize that these tax provisions are vital for manufacturing and construction jobs in districts all across the country."
According to Tiberi’s website, in 2009 he supported a GOP bill that would have made renewable tax credits permanent, although it’s worth noting that making the PTC permanent was a mainstay of Republican energy policy until the political winds later began to shift against the credit.
Brady, who in 2013 chaired a bipartisan Ways and Means energy tax reform working group, last year signaled support for a phaseout of the PTC as negotiations on tax extenders came down to the wire, calling it a means of bridging the political divide.
"I think it certainly achieves the goal of ending the subsidy that has gone on far too long and doing it in a way that both parties embrace," he said at the time (Greenwire, Dec. 2, 2014).
Nunes, a moderate who has harshly criticized the tactics of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, won the backing of dozens of his GOP colleagues for his 2010 comprehensive energy bill that aimed to end the reliance of alternative energy sources on "haphazard tax credits" by dedicating fossil fuel revenues to a renewable energy trust fund.
Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.), the ranking member on Ways and Means, expressed doubts last week that a new chairman would make much difference on the committee’s work, which he said in the current Congress can be measured by "what we haven’t done."
Levin said internal GOP divisions will likely continue to hamper work on the highway bill and tax extenders, regardless of who is in the chairman’s seat.
"The main problem is the Ways and Means Committee hasn’t faced up to these issues in large part because of the dynamics within the Republican conference," he told reporters.