House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., now appears likely to replace John Boehner, R-Ohio, as Speaker of the House. That change will set off a series of moves that, although unlikely to have a significant effect on trade policy, could have an impact on the fate of trade-related legislation over the coming year, including the customs reauthorization bill that is still awaiting a House-Senate conference.
Ryan’s replacement will likely be either Kevin Brady, R-Texas, or Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio. Sam Johnson, R-Texas, ranks higher than either in seniority but has given no indication that he intends to run. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., a former Trade Subcommittee chair, ranks behind Brady and ahead of Tiberi but already chairs the House Intelligence Committee and also has said nothing suggesting an interest in moving to Ways and Means.
Brady, who ran against Ryan for the committee chairmanship last year, would appear to hold the edge over Tiberi. He is a former chairman of the Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee, was a key leader in the passage of the free trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea, and served as the White House’s point man on the passage of CAFTA-DR. Tiberi currently chairs the Trade Subcommittee and helped advance trade promotion authority legislation, but he has only held that position since the beginning of this year. Nevertheless, Brady’s selection is not a foregone conclusion; one potential factor against him is that members from Texas already chair several House committees.
Should Tiberi get the nod, the chairmanship of the Trade Subcommittee would open up and could be contested by Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., Charles Boustany, R-La., and Dave Reichert, R-Wash. Even if Brady is elected to head the full committee he would need to be replaced as a member of the Trade Subcommittee, though it is unclear who might fill that spot.