GOP angling for choice Ways and Means seats already underway

Departures and an expanded conference open several opportunities for Republicans to join the tax-writing committee

Rep. Mike Carey, R-Ohio, says his state could use the representation on the Ways and Means Committee, particularly with Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, retiring. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Rep. Mike Carey, R-Ohio, says his state could use the representation on the Ways and Means Committee, particularly with Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, retiring. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted November 14, 2022 at 2:00pm, Updated at 9:42pm

At least 10 Republicans appear to be in the mix to fill open slots on the Ways and Means Committee in the next Congress, which could see a large influx of new GOP members if the party ultimately wins back the House.

Between departing members and new spots that would be added in the case of a Republican majority, around 10 seats could be up for grabs on the powerful panel that oversees taxes, trade, health care, Social Security and social services programs. Even if Democrats ultimately keep the House, a scenario that was still in play, though less likely, as of Monday morning, the GOP will have a handful of panel openings that could be competitive.

GOP Reps. Mike Carey of Ohio, Blake D. Moore of Utah, Greg Steube of Florida, Beth Van Duyne of Texas and Claudia Tenney of New York are aiming to get seats on Ways and Means, aides to the lawmakers confirmed. Rep. Randy Feenstra, R-Iowa, is also seeking a spot, according to a Republican aide. A source with knowledge of her intentions confirmed that Rep. Michelle Fischbach, R-Minn., is aiming for Ways and Means.

Other names that are circulating include California’s Michelle Steel, New York’s Nicole Malliotakis and William R. Timmons IV of South Carolina.

While midterm election results are still being tabulated, Republicans would likely keep the current majority-minority party split on Ways and Means if they win the House. That would mean 25 seats for the GOP and 18 for Democrats, giving Republicans a cushion for tough votes even if their majority in the chamber is narrow.

Only 17 Republican spots on Ways and Means are currently occupied. Republicans haven’t yet replaced Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Ind., who died in a car accident in August.

The panel’s top Republican, Texas Rep. Kevin Brady, is retiring at the end of the year, and Rep. Tom Rice, R-S.C., lost his primary, so another two spots will be up for grabs.

That would mean 10 open slots if the party split sticks. Even if Republicans remain in the minority, they’d have three openings.

Regional representation

The decision on who fills the spots would be up to the Republican Steering Committee, a panel that includes party leaders and regional and class representatives. Factors they’re likely to consider include geographical representation and giving some spots to members representing more competitive districts, who could get a boost next cycle from serving on the elite committee. Newly elected Republicans would generally face long odds given the competition to get on Ways and Means.

Ways and Means lost GOP members from California, New York and Indiana this year and replaced them with lawmakers from other states. Additional exits mean gaps from Texas and South Carolina. Republicans from those states — like California’s Steel, New York’s Tenney and Malliotakis, Texas’ Van Duyne and South Carolina’s Timmons — could get a boost.

The panel includes another member from Texas, but in the latest Congress it hosted the biggest Republican delegation in the House. Brady and fellow Texas Republicans backed Van Duyne for a seat on Ways and Means in an October 2021 letter to GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy, according to a copy shared with CQ Roll Call.

The other states now have no representation on the GOP side.

Florida and Ohio, with the next-largest Republican presences in the House, each hold one Ways and Means slot and could gain another, possibly benefiting Steube and Carey.

That’s part of Carey’s appeal for a seat. He said in an interview that Ohio has in the past had two representatives on Republicans’ Ways and Means roster and that adding representation is more critical now with the retirement of Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, who’s played an influential role on the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee.

Carey pointed to Ohio’s importance as a center for manufacturing, agriculture, energy and pharmaceuticals and to manufacturing sites in and near his district.

“I’ve followed Ways and Means for many, many years,” Carey said. “I know how important it is to not only the state of Ohio but for our region.”

He added that he could bring more urban representation given his Columbus-area district and would bring knowledge of energy policy after he worked in government relations for the coal industry.

Another potential contender, Malliotakis, worked for a utility company before moving on to elected office.

Tenney is emphasizing her background as a longtime small-business owner, according to a statement from spokesperson Steve Hansen. That includes owning and working for a family commercial printing and manufacturing business and launching a newspaper group.

“She has never been afraid to stand on principle and take the tough votes when it’s the right thing to do for those she represents,” Hansen said in the statement. “If chosen to serve on this vitally important committee by her colleagues, Congresswoman Tenney will bring her same tenacious and compassionate spirit with her as she continues to champion small businesses and family farms, support senior citizens, boost American manufacturing, and unleash domestic energy production.”

Timmons also has a background in small business, owning a gym and yoga studio.

Tax experience, diversity

Several possible contenders have experience overseeing taxes. Examples are Feenstra, who was a tax writer in the Iowa Senate, and Steel, who served on California’s State Board of Equalization, which administers tax and fee programs.

Lawmakers who could get a boost for future races include Steel and Malliotakis. Both were considered somewhat vulnerable this cycle, according to Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales’ ratings ahead of the midterms. Malliotakis ultimately pulled off a sizable win and Steel was leading, although the AP had yet to call her race on Monday.

Republicans could also consider diversity. Since Walorski’s death, the committee includes only one Republican woman, and now several are in the mix for seats. There are no people of color currently on the GOP side of Ways and Means, according to CQ’s member data; Malliotakis is half Cuban, and Steel is Korean American.

Republicans might also have several new subcommittee leaders, with two current ranking members vying to replace Brady as chair or ranking member. They never replaced Walorski as ranking member on the Worker and Family Support Subcommittee.

On the Democratic side, they may have to cut members from Ways and Means if they’re in the minority. Three members didn’t run for reelection, and one, California’s Jimmy Gomez, was in a tight race that the AP had yet to call as of Monday. (Gomez is facing another Democrat due to the state’s jungle primary system.)

If Ways and Means maintains its current party ratio, that could mean a loss of three to four seats that remain occupied, which would likely put members with the least seniority on the chopping block. If Democrats keep control of the House, they’d have at least three openings to fill.