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March, 5th 2010

McDermott angling for permanent control of Ways & Means?

– Liz Mair

Over at Politico, Jonathan Allen reports that "The race is on for permanent control of the Ways and Means Committee," and that "Sources close to Massachusetts Rep. Richard Neal, who is sixth in seniority on the panel, say he’s reviewing his options and has significant support from Democratic colleagues and business interests on K Street.  Neal would have to climb over Levin, Washington Rep. Jim McDermott and Georgia Rep. John Lewis to get the gavel.  Asked about his own intentions Thursday, McDermott, cited a Rangel saying that every member of every committee plans to be chairman or chairwoman someday.  'There’s always time to consider things,' he said."

That's about the most definitive statement I'd expect McDermott to give anyone, so I'm going to assume that there's a 50% or better chance that McDermott pursues the chairmanship.

If he does, what would this mean?  

Well, for starters, if Rep. Pete Stark got the brush-off for being too politically problematic, it's worth noting that McDermott might be no barrel of laughs overall on that count, either.  Also, McDermott is, of course, rather tax-favorable (he and Rangel have received roughly equivalent ratings in several recent years from Americans for Tax Reform). And there are some on the Hill (from both parties) who I have heard on numerous occasions describe him as generally less-than-engaged, aloof, and/or difficult.

However, it's also worth emphasizing that a McDermott takeover could be, on balance, a half-decent thing for free trade advocates, should there be anything on the free trade agenda to potentially move.  Seattle is, of course, heavily trade-dependent and while McDermott hasn't cut as pro-free-trade a line as other members of the Washington delegation, in comparison to equally liberal Democrats from much of the rest of the country, he looks positively libertarian. [intro]

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