Kearns hails from a tiny town of 500 in eastern Colorado. After graduating from law school at the University of Pennsylvania, he took at job at Mayer, Brown and Platt. When the firm had an emergency need to fill a post at an office in Kyrgyzstan, it sent Kearns, taking advantage of his Russian skills.
That experience inspired him to go back to school for a graduate degree in public policy, specializing in international trade and finance at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government.
After graduate school, he did a stint with the Washington office of WilmerHale doing policy work that included trying to build support for trade agreements in Congress and handling antidumping and export-control cases. From there, Kearns moved to the Office of the General Counsel for the U.S. Trade Representative, advising negotiators on trade agreements with Morocco and Australia and defending the U.S. in World Trade Organization disputes.
Kearns, 42, has now served on the Ways and Means Committee for seven years. During that time he has overseen efforts by ranking member Sander Levin, D-Mich., to include labor, environmental, and prescription-drug provisions in trade agreements, which will continue to be central as the committee monitors negotiations in the Pacific and Europe.
He also plays a key role pushing Levin's legislation on China's currency manipulation.