House Republican leaders elected Rep. Kevin Brady to chair the powerful Ways and Means Committee yesterday, giving the Texas delegation its seventh committee chairman in the lower chamber.
The House Republican Steering Committee chose the Texan over Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio) in a secret ballot vote. The chairmanship was opened last week when Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) gave up the gavel after he became House speaker. The full House GOP caucus is expected to approve Brady's selection today to lead the 39-member panel.
"I'm a pro-growth conservative, advancing a pro-growth agenda for House Republicans," Brady told reporters yesterday after meeting with the steering committee.
Brady said he plans to use the Ways and Means gavel to push for a tax code overhaul and reforms to entitlement program spending and President Obama's health care law.
Brady's seniority on Ways and Means played a big role in his victory, according to several lawmakers on the steering panel, which awards committee chairmanships. Brady was the No. 2 Republican on the committee, while Tiberi was the fourth-most senior GOP lawmaker on the tax-writing panel.
"His record and his experience on the committee," were key factors in the vote, Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) told reporters.
Brady also received a crucial, last-minute endorsement from Ryan, who told the steering panel the Texan was the right fit to lead the committee.
Ryan said "he thought that Kevin was the right guy for the job," Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) said afterward.
Tiberi congratulated Brady in a brief statement.
"We share the goal of passing pro-growth legislation that provides for employers and families. I will continue doing the work needed to put our country on a better path," Tiberi said.
Brady will become the seventh Texas Republican to hold a committee gavel, giving the Lone Star State's GOP congressional delegation even more influence in the House.
The delegation's clout on major House panels was considered a potential strike against Brady, but he downplayed the issue after the vote.
"We're not the party of quotas, we're the party of merit. We put the best players on the field every time," Brady said.
In listing his priorities as Ways and Means chairman, Brady didn't mention a focus on energy policy, but it could come into play when the House and Senate negotiate a tax extenders package later this year.
In July, the Senate Finance Committee passed a package of 52 on-again, off-again tax breaks that included incentives for renewable energy. The Ways and Means Committee, under Ryan's leadership, passed a smaller package of tax extenders in September that did not include any energy provisions.
Energy industry experts said Brady could be open to a mix of incentives that includes tax credits for wind and solar.
"His primary focus is going to be on oil and gas for Texas, but I think that's not to the exclusion of other energy resources," said Paul Bledsoe, whose policy firm focuses on tax and energy issues.
"He's somebody that renewables advocates can work with," added Bledsoe, a former Senate Finance Committee staffer. "I think Brady is going to have an open mind."
Reporter Geof Koss contributed.
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