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Briefings: Brady, Ways & Means GOP Leader, Retiring with Rank…

Neal & Brady

Breaking up not-the-oddest couple in the House. Retiring Rep Brady with Neal at a 2019 committee hearing. (WMP&I)

Come next Congress, the leadership of the Ways & Means Committee will be changing. No, there is no hint yet that Springfield Congressman Richard Neal is leaving. However, his Republican counterpart, Kevin Brady, will not be among the committee’s minority or its majority if the GOP retakes the House. Brady announced his retirement before a conference his area chamber of commerce was holding.

The Woodlands, Texas Republican will retire after 26 years in the House. Formerly of South Dakota, he had previously served in the Texas House of Representatives before winning his seat. Though an ardent conservative, Neal had spoken of him as somebody that he could talk to—not a firebreather, in other words. While often differing greatly, the two also sponsored a number of bill during their time as their parties’ respective leaders on Ways & Means.

“I set out to give my constituents the representation you deserve, the effectiveness you want and the economic freedom you need. I hope I delivered,” Brady said in his chamber remarks. “It’s a remarkable privilege to work for you in the U.S. House of Representatives.”

After thanking his wife, Cathy, Brady noted that GOP caucus term limits on House committee leadership. In other words, if the GOP regains the House, he would not be chair anyway. However, he conceded that was only partly the reason.

Neal, in his own statement, noted their differences, but also their ability to find common ground on some issues.

“Ranking Member Brady’s announcement to not seek reelection is a loss for both the Ways and Means Committee and Congress,” Neal said. “Our working relationship has always been predicated on doing our best for this country we both love so dearly, and I respect his commitment to the people of Texas’s 8th Congressional District.”

In addition to expressing some hope, however fleeting, that they could work together on infrastructure, Neal namechecked a few issues on which he and Brady had collaborated. Among them were retirement and child welfare bills. However, the two also worked together a bill that restructured the Internal Revenue Service and on the revision of NAFTA.

Brady referenced the trade deal in his own remarks. He even disclaimed the idea that partisanship prompted his exit calling the people of both parties he works with “talented, hardworking and serious about their responsibilities.”

US House Ways & Means Committee

Brady at the Ways & Means Committee in a moment of contemplation. His time as the top Republican coincided with a period of epic division & peculiar bipartisanship on the committee. (WMP&I)

Brady became chair of Ways & Means in 2015 after Paul Ryan ascended to the speakership. Neal joined in 2017 and two years later became chair when Democrats took the House.

At the time he became the top Democrat on Ways & Means, Neal called Brady “deliberative.” The two could speak to one another, he told WMP&I in an interview then. But, Neal cautioned, “That doesn’t mean we are going to agree. In all likelihood we are not going to agree a lot.”

Indeed in his statement Brady also touted the massive tax cut that Ways & Means, while he was chair, helped jam through. He branded the bill, which Democrats including Neal vehemently opposed, as something that helped the impoverished. That bill was where many Republicans, including Texas Governor Greg Abbott focused their accolades for Brady.

The nearly $2 trillion bill largely cut the taxes of the wealthy and corporations. What tax cuts the little people received will sunset while corporate ones will not.

Though Brady torched a few strawmen in his remarks, he waxed optimistic about the United States’ virtues, too. He feted a plural, compassionate nation.

“The American Dream is still alive and well for anyone willing to work for it until it’s theirs,” Brady told the Woodlands chamber. “That is why I remain optimistic about our country, because I have faith in our people. I’ve seen up close how remarkable you are, and while I am leaving Congress I am excited about our future.”

Brady almost certainly believes that, but more and more people in his party seem determined to undermine America’s virtues. Perhaps, more than he would want to admit, that was a factor in his decision to call it a career.