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House Leadership Taps Jason Smith as Ways and Means Chair

Posted on Jan. 10, 2023

After just a decade in the House, Missouri Republican Jason Smith got the nod in a January 9 vote as incoming chair of the House Ways and Means Committee.

The choice by House GOP leadership of the fourth most senior member of the committee accents a meteoric rise for Smith, 42, who was first elected to the House in 2012. In comparison, the committee’s previous chair, Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Mass., was in the House for 30 years before getting the panel’s gavel.

Smith’s two competitors for the chair, Reps. Vern Buchanan of Florida and Adrian Smith of Nebraska, are the two most senior Republicans on the panel, each having been in the House for 16 years. Ways and Means member Mike Kelly, R-Pa., is also more senior than Jason Smith.

In a statement, Jason Smith said it was “deeply humbling and an honor” to be selected to lead the committee. In the last Congress, he took the lead on legislation to make permanent the 20 percent business income deduction, and he said that as chair he will examine using tax policy to “re-shore” U.S. companies and to achieve U.S. energy independence.

It took two ballots by the House GOP Steering Committee for Jason Smith to beat Buchanan, who had once been the favorite to lead the panel. Smith became better known within the GOP caucus over the last Congress as ranking member of the House Budget Committee, where he regularly assailed Biden administration economic and fiscal policies.

Smith promised that the committee would beef up its oversight activities, particularly those aimed at the IRS, “by investigating politically motivated leaks of taxpayer information by the IRS and rolling back efforts by the Biden Administration to use the agency to target the middle class.”

“If confirmed, the new IRS Commissioner should plan to spend a lot of time before our committee answering questions about the leaking of sensitive taxpayer information and an agency with a history of targeting conservative Americans,” Smith said, referring to nominee Danny Werfel.

Republicans have complained that the $80 billion in added IRS funding in the Inflation Reduction Act (P.L. 117-169) will boost audits of small businesses and middle-income taxpayers and have made repealing the funding a House priority. Audit rates have declined across the board over the last decade, but the Biden administration has said that restoring the agency’s enforcement muscle will be aimed at higher-income and not middle-income taxpayers.

Besides being the youngest of the three candidates for the chair, Jason Smith is also the most conservative, according to annual voting ratings by the American Conservative Union.

Smith has suggested that there may be a compromise with Democrats who want to renew an expanded child tax credit.

“I think that we can find some common ground: for example, work requirements,” Smith said on a Punchbowl News interview in December 2022. “What happened in the American Rescue Plan with the child tax credit was a disaster because they eliminated the work requirements.”

Democrats React

“Leading the Ways and Means Committee is an awesome responsibility, and I congratulate Jason on his selection as the new chairman,” said Neal, the ranking member on the committee. “We have worked together for years on some of the most consequential issues, and I look forward to continuing the committee’s tradition of rising above politics to do what’s best for the American people.”

Ways and Means member Donald S. Beyer Jr., D-Va., was less kind, claiming in a tweet that Smith would “hold the debt limit hostage” to an agenda of spending cuts.

Linking legislation to increase the debt limit, which is expected to be breached in the third quarter, with spending cuts is something Smith and other Republicans have promoted.

“We’re not going to default on our obligations,” Smith said during the Punchbowl interview. “But I would say Joe Biden would not want to default on our obligations. If we put a debt limit increase on his desk, that also reduces reckless spending. I would hope that he would sign that.”

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