Credit: Architect of the Capitol

Tax-writing panel primes lawmakers for powerful, lucrative lives after Congress

October 19, 2017 - 1:57 pm

(WASHINGTON) -- Ohio Rep. Pat Tiberi is the latest seasoned House Republican to call it quits, announcing he’ll resign by Jan. 31 to accept a lucrative position in the Buckeye State rather than finish his ninth term on Capitol Hill.

Suddenly, there’s less hyperbole when House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., identifies this moment as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to overhaul the tax code, with decades of GOP experience heading for greener pastures.

Since the dawn of Congress, the House Ways and Means Committee has been the most powerful, coveted committee post a lawmaker can seek, as members of the panel have constitutional jurisdiction over the power of the purse.

That makes them popular candidates for higher political office, and deeply attractive recruits at lobbying firms on K Street, who can offer salaries far above the $174,000 members of the House are paid each year.

After seizing majority control in 2011, the initial GOP chairman, Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan, led the committee for four years before retiring and cashing in at PricewaterhouseCoopers accounting firm. Ryan handed off the chairman’s gavel for Ways and Means after less than a year when he was elected speaker in 2015.

There is not even legislative text of a tax bill yet, but Tiberi’s decision represents the sixth Ways and Means Republican, out of 24 GOPers on the panel, to decide to leave the House.

Republican Reps. Sam Johnson of Texas, Dave Reichert of Washington and Lynn Jenkins of Kansas are leaving public office while Reps. Diane Black of Tennessee and Jim Renacci of Ohio are mounting campaigns for governor.

“I have been presented with an opportunity to lead the Ohio Business Roundtable that will allow me to continue to work on public policy issues impacting Ohioans while also spending more time with my family,” Tiberi wrote in a statement announcing his intent to resign. “Leaving Congress is not a decision I take lightly but after a lot of consideration, it is the best one for me, my wife, Denice, and our four wonderful daughters.”

Tiberi’s announcement signals he intends to serve until the ongoing attempt at tax reform reaches a conclusion.

The number of House Republicans not seeking re-election (24) is not trending higher than previous election cycles, and is not far out of tune with the number of Democrats (11) moving on from the House.

Beyond Tiberi's looming resignation, four Republicans took appointments in the Trump administration, one resigned in disgrace, another resigned on fair terms in favor of a gig at Fox News, seven more are retiring and 10 are seeking higher office.

No matter how safe GOP leaders insist those Republican districts are, the 13-seat split between GOP and Democratic retirements puts the Republicans at a slight disadvantage heading into next year’s midterm elections, though their 46-seat overall majority helps create a cushion.

The bottom line: If Ryan is going to hand President Donald Trump a major legislative victory in his first year in office, tax overhaul might be the last best chance before the GOP’s grip on majority control is potentially dissolved.

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