Widely considered one of the most influential staffers on Capitol Hill, Mays has served on the Ways and Means Committee since 1975 and knows where all the bodies are buried from every major tax, trade, and entitlement battle during that time.
She is originally from Georgia and is known for calling the people she works with "sweetie" and offering candy from the stash in her office. Ranking member Sander Levin, D-Mich., calls her a "tower of strength and wisdom," adding, "She also hears more gossip than anybody else."
Mays, 61, has her own small collection of political mementos, including a hat from Lady Bird Johnson and pictures of the eight presidents who once served on Ways and Means. The presidents' pictures are on loan to the majority and are framed on the walls of the committee's H-208 Capitol office, where Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., often works.
Mays sees her job with the minority as interpreting legislative policy for Democrats, explaining the decisions that need to be made, offering advice, and serving as a sounding board to challenge their opinions and strategy.
When Camp puts out his tax-reform plan, Mays will sit down with Democratic tax staff to decipher what it does and whether it meets the objectives Republicans have laid out. She will also guide Democrats in sorting through what metrics they use to assess policies and how any reform plan that emerges stacks up to their goals.
This article appears in the October 24, 2013, edition of NJ Daily as Janice Mays, Minority Chief Counsel.