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The Ways and Means Republican exodus

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Nov 28, 2022
Illustration of an elephant walking through an exit door.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A huge amount of turnover has occurred among Ways and Means Committee Republicans in the last three congressional sessions — and even just in the last year.

The big picture: Only seven GOP members who will be in the next Congress have been on the committee since at least 2018, the last time Republicans held a House majority.

  • The other eight Republican members who will be here next year have joined in the last five years, and two of those eight just in the last year.

Why it matters: That means only a handful of Republicans will have had deep experience with one of the main health care committees when the new GOP majority takes power in the House next year.

  • The turnover will likely give more influence to the most senior Republicans — including Vern Buchanan, Adrian Smith and Jason Smith, the three candidates for chairman — as well as Mike Kelly.

By the numbers: Buchanan and Adrian Smith have been on the committee 12 years, while Kelly and Jason Smith have served 10 and eight years on the committee, respectively.

  • Republicans have 17 committee members now as the minority, but they're likely slated to gain 10 new members next year.
  • Of the 25 Democrats currently on the committee, 12 have been there since at least 2017. Some could be cut from the committee when they move into the minority.

Our thought bubble: Republicans like to say they’re the party of merit, not seniority. So many of them may not see it as a bad thing that they don’t have as many years of experience on their side, and will embrace the mix of old and new members.

The backstory: By the end of 2018, Republicans had lost 12 members through resignations or losses in the general election.

  • That meant there were openings for two new GOP members on the committee in 2018: Darin LaHood and Brad Wenstrup. And three new members joined in 2019: Jodey Arrington, Drew Ferguson and Ron Estes — who are now in the middle tier of experience on the Republican side.
  • Three more — Lloyd Smucker, Kevin Hern and Carol Miller — joined in January 2021.
  • During the current Congress, five senior members left or will leave by the end of this year. First was GOP ranking member Kevin Brady, who announced in April 2021 that he was retiring at the end of this term.
  • Next was Devin Nunes, who was the most senior member after Brady and seen as a chairman candidate, but left Congress last year to become CEO of the Trump Media and Technology Group.
  • In May 2022, Rep. Tom Reed resigned after a sexual misconduct allegation. Then, in June, Rep. Tom Rice lost in the South Carolina GOP primary after voting to impeach former President Trump.
  • And in August, tragically, Rep. Jackie Walorski died in a car accident alongside two of her staffers.

Between the lines: The few GOP senior members, including the three seeking the committee chairmanship, could have more sway, Republican lobbyist Matthew Hoekstra told us.

  • But it also means the new class of committee Republicans can move more quickly up the ranks and be seen as more serious Ways and Means members faster than on the Democratic side, he said.
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