Free Market Conservative Kevin Brady Takes Over Ways and Means
Policy + Politics

Free Market Conservative Kevin Brady Takes Over Ways and Means

REUTERS/Gary Cameron

Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, a staunch free market conservative and long-time champion of corporate tax relief, was tapped by the House GOP leadership on Wednesday to succeed Speaker Paul D. Ryan as chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, Congress’s premier tax-writing panel.

The 60-year-old Brady, a one-time Texas chamber of commerce official who was first elected to the House in 1996, parlayed his substantial knowledge of trade and tax issues to garner a seat on the Ways and Means Committee and later the chair of the Joint Economic Committee.  

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The veteran Texas Republican lawmaker currently chairs the Ways and Means health subcommittee, where he exercises jurisdiction over the Affordable Care Act. He is typically conservative on economic and tax matters, but is not considered doctrinaire or unwilling to hear out Democratic lawmakers.

Brady has strong views on the need to simplify the federal tax code, reduce taxes on corporations and businesses, improve expense write-offs and rewrite so called territorial tax measures to encourage multinational corporations to pay taxes on billions of dollars of profits currently being stashed overseas.

“I would say he’s a pretty solid free market conservative, and his attitudes on tax policy I think would track extremely closely to Paul Ryan’s,” said Scott Hodge, president of the non-partisan Tax Foundation. “His work on the Joint Economic Committee I think tends to illustrate that he would favor simplifying the tax system. He would be in favor of reducing taxes on corporations, on capital. Basically, business tax reform would be a key priority.”

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As a legislative leader and strategist, Brady is known as a tough, levelheaded, somewhat self-effacing figure who rarely engages in self-promotion or grandstanding. “I would just say he’s a pretty solid guy,” Hodge said in an interview. “He’s just very thoughtful; he’s very much of a policy-oriented person. Maybe not quite as nerdy as Paul Ryan, but just very policy oriented.”

“I would tend to think that many of the priorities that we saw with Paul Ryan will continue with Kevin Brady,” he added.

While the meeting of the House GOP Steering Committee to choose Ryan’s replacement was conducted in secret, it’s reasonable to assume that Ryan had a major hand in selecting Brady over his chief rival, Pat Tiberi, 53, a former realtor and Ohio GOP moderate who had close ties to former House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH).

The entire House GOP conference will vote on the new Ways and Means chair Thursday morning. But the members almost never vote against the endorsement of the Steering Committee, which includes more than two-dozen members of the leadership.

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One strike against Brady was that he is a relatively weak fundraiser – a factor that may have been used against him a year ago when Ryan leapfrogged over him to claim the tax-writing committee’s chair.

However, Brady has close ties with House GOP Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), his roommate in Washington, and he could count on substantial support from the Texas delegation, which is the largest in the House GOP Conference.  Brady is now the seventh Texan to win election to a committee chair.

Once the dust settles after the 2016 presidential and congressional elections, Brady – in concert with Ryan – will attempt to draft and pass a major reform of the federal tax code as part of the Republicans’ efforts to bolster the economy and move away from Obama administration policies.

Brady told The Texas Tribune in an interview last week that his new job is one that directly affects the daily lives Americans. 

“Ways and Means is the committee that tackles the big issues that affects people’s lives and their jobs in a major way," he told the newspaper, noting that his committee has jurisdiction over issues beyond taxes including Social Security, Obamacare, trade and Medicare. 

“Basically, it touches every aspect of your life," he added.