English Out, Ryan Coy on Ways and Means Race

Posted December 12, 2007 at 6:31pm

The jockeying to become the next top Republican on the Ways and Means Committee came into clearer focus Wednesday as Reps. Dave Camp (Mich.) and Wally Herger (Calif.) remained the two top contenders for the job.

Rep. Phil English (Pa.) said on Wednesday that he will not be a candidate to succeed retiring Rep. Jim McCrery (La.) in the post, while Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.) kept the door open to seeking the job.

“While I would welcome the opportunity to Chair the Ways and Means Committee in the future, I recognize that for the next Congress, the best way to pursue my agenda of tax reform, quality healthcare and enhanced trade policy is to serve the Ways and Means Republican team as the lead person on one of our key subcommittees,” English said in a statement.

Ryan, meanwhile, said it was still “a little premature to talk about it” and praised McCrery’s service on the panel.

“It’s a huge loss,” said Ryan, who had just returned to Washington, D.C., after being stuck in the snow and ice storm that has paralyzed much of the Midwest.

Asked if he was being encouraged to vie for the ranking member post, Ryan, a darling of fiscal conservatives, demurred.

“I don’t want to get into all that stuff,” he said.

Ryan, the ranking member on the Budget Committee, will be ninth in seniority on the Ways and Means panel in the next Congress, and many view it as unlikely that he would be picked to leapfrog over so many other Members to get the job.

Camp, who will be the second-most-senior Republican on the panel next Congress, remains the early favorite to ascend to the post. He has been a close ally of Republican leaders and long has been viewed as a rising star in the party.

Still, Herger has been aggressively making calls and seeking support for the post. Herger has the most seniority of any Republican on the panel, but he chose not to challenge McCrery for the job when it was open at the end of the previous Congress.

“This is going to be a long procedure and I think it will be a very positive procedure,” Herger said on Wednesday of the Ways and Means campaign. He said it would be a good thing if one or more other candidates were to jump into the race.

Herger said he plans to reactivate the political action committee that he shut down in 2002 as part of his plan to increase his fundraising and activity for the party as he vies for the job.

“I intend to be working 24/7 from now throughout my term in Congress and will be out working to elect Republicans throughout the nation, raising money for the cause,” he said.

The Republican Steering Committee will meet to vote on the ranking member slots — assuming the GOP stays in the minority — when both parties return after the November 2008 elections to organize for the next Congress.