Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp's term atop the panel expires at the end of this Congress, raising questions as to who will be the next leader.
There is little expectation that Camp will seek a waiver from House leadership to stay beyond the Republican term limits, leaving Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., as the odds-on favorite to succeed Camp.
"The bottom line is that our former vice presidential nominee is there, and he can pretty much do what he wants," said committee member Devin Nunes, R-Calif.
Conventional wisdom says that Ryan wins the gavel if he wants it. The position serves as a platform to push high-profile policy initiatives, which could come in handy, even if he later runs for president.
But Ryan might instead pursue a post in leadership, such as the speakership, which would open the field at Ways and Means. Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio, the Select Revenue Measures Subcommittee chairman, is a candidate, as is Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, who leads the Health Subcommittee and recently led the Trade Subcommittee. Nunes, who heads the Trade Subcommittee now, is also in the mix.
On the Democratic side, the picture is less clear. Ranking member Sander Levin, D-Mich., is running for reelection at 82, but it is unclear how much longer he will stay in Congress. Once Levin leaves, many see Rep. Richard Neal of Massachusetts as the next top Democrat in waiting. He challenged Levin for the ranking-member position in 2010 and came up one vote ahead of him in the party's Steering and Policy Committee (although one member was missing). Levin won when the vote was put to the caucus.
Another contender is Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., the highly regarded civil-rights leader who has more seniority than Neal.
Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., is the most senior Democrat on the panel after Levin and Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., and he says his turn is coming. When asked who will be the next top Democrat, he said, "You mean me?" When asked if he thinks it really will be him, he said, "Of course."
This article appears in the October 24, 2013 edition of NJ Daily as Who Will Next Wield the Gavel?.