This is the second in a two-part series about new Ways and Means Committee members. The first is here.
House GOP leaders spread new seats on the powerful tax-writing Ways and Means panel around the country, incorporating viewpoints that don’t always jibe with the party’s mainstream.
Among the new voices is Brian Fitzpatrick, a Pennsylvania Republican from the Philadelphia suburbs and co-chair of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus. He’s one of 18 House Republicans who won last year in districts President Joe Biden carried two years earlier.
Fitzpatrick crossed the aisle to join Democrats on major legislation such as the 2021 infrastructure law and a 2022 gun safety package. Fitzpatrick was also closely involved in negotiations that helped deliver Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., the speaker’s gavel.
An attorney and certified public accountant, Fitzpatrick supported Republicans’ partisan 2017 tax law that slashed the corporate tax rate and lowered most individual income tax rates. Still, he said he believes tax and regulatory policies shouldn’t be partisan.
“When it comes to the tax code, I really do believe that there is a point of equilibrium that all of us aspire to get to as to what those right numbers are, rather than just making these statements that we want to cut taxes or lower taxes or tax the wealthy,” Fitzpatrick said. “Those are talking points and soundbites — that’s not a policy.”
Fitzpatrick cited the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, enacted with bipartisan support during the Trump administration, as the type of trade framework he prefers.
And he plans to play a key role in negotiations over raising the debt limit, leveraging his bipartisan ties.
Fitzpatrick said he’ll “always be mindful” of his support for organized labor, as his union relationships set him apart from many fellow Republicans. His list of top donors in the 2022 cycle was peppered with labor unions, led by the Seafarers International Union and Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Union, according to OpenSecrets.org.
Other top Fitzpatrick donors include Philadelphia-based media and cable giant Comcast Corp., AT&T Corp., private equity fund manager Blackstone Group and the No Labels Problem Solvers PAC.
Sales tax backer
Another Ways and Means newcomer brings a different vantage point, including backing for a contentious tax proposal that’s sparked division among Republicans.
Sarasota-area Rep. Greg Steube is now the second Florida Republican on Ways and Means. He’s staked out a conservative platform, winning him backing from the Club for Growth, a free-market advocacy group that was among his top donors last cycle, according to OpenSecrets.
Club for Growth supports replacing the current U.S. tax code with a flat tax or national sales tax, a proposal that’s entered the spotlight after conservatives demanded action on their “fair tax” bill among measures for them to back McCarthy for speaker.
Democrats have used the proposal as a punching bag ever since, arguing it would hit the poor the hardest, and some House Republicans — even McCarthy — have said they don’t support it. Steube is among just 25 GOP cosponsors of the sales tax legislation and the only Ways and Means member on it.
In an interview before sustaining injuries from an accident at his home where he’s now recovering, Steube pointed to his work on the Judiciary Committee as emblematic of the approach he’ll bring to Ways and Means. He’s made waves before, including during a June 2022 markup of gun control legislation when he brandished several guns over a livestream.
Steube said he’s been aiming for a seat on Ways and Mean for a decade, at first to address tax and trade policies to help his agricultural district.
That’s still part of his viewpoint, but Steube said he now represents an area with many seniors. More than 35 percent of district residents are over 65, according to Census Bureau data. “I have the most elderly district in the country now, so Social Security, Medicare,” Steube said of his focus.
Other top Steube donors include the American Israel Public Affairs Committee; North Port, Fla.-based King Plastic Corp., health insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield and Clewiston, Fla.-based U.S. Sugar.
Ways and Means’ new roster brings a lone New York City representative to the panel.
Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, who represents Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn, voted with her party 88 percent of the time in 2021, according to CQ Roll Call vote studies. (Data for 2022 isn’t yet available.) But her district’s makeup means she breaks with much of her party on the state and local tax deduction.
Malliotakis’ presence could change the shape of conversations around extending provisions of Republicans’ 2017 tax law that expire after 2025, which includes the $10,000 “SALT” cap — a key offset that helped pay for lower tax rates but disproportionately impacts blue states like New York.
“I think I bring, you know, an interesting perspective that my colleagues that are in . . . other parts of the country may not appreciate at the moment,” Malliotakis said, adding she’s been “very candid” about SALT with fellow lawmakers.
She also suggested paying for larger SALT deductions by cutting federal dollars that flow to blue states like New York, which she said has mismanaged federal funds. She said her New York background has fostered an interest in combating fraud in Medicare and other government benefits.
Malliotakis also cited an interest in trade to boost domestic supply chains, grow U.S. jobs and secure energy and pharmaceutical supply chains.
New York-based real estate and investment interests like Meridian Properties and HJ Kalikow & Co. LLC and Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe, a private equity firm focused on health care and technology companies, dominated Malliotakis’ list of top 2022 donors, according to OpenSecrets.
Reps. Michelle Steel and Blake D. Moore add Western seats to Ways and Means, which previously included just one Republican from the region.
Steel will be the lone California Republican, and like Fitzpatrick’s district, hers is one of the few GOP-held districts that Biden carried in 2020.
Steel pointed to the need for more Western representation and that she wants to work on trade issues given her district’s role in foreign trade; the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach were Nos. 1 and 3 for waterborne imports and exports in 2020, respectively, according to Transportation Department data.
But it was tax policy that made Steel want to join Ways and Means.
A Korean immigrant who moved to the U.S. as a teen, Steel said it was watching her mother’s experience as a small business owner who spoke no English that drew her into tax policy and elected office, including on California’s tax board. Steel’s mother once paid a tax bill and penalties she didn’t owe after receiving a letter from the state, the sophomore lawmaker said.
Even before joining Ways and Means, Steel was among leaders on Republican messaging bills that aim to undo some of Democrats’ policies from the last two years, including one Republicans passed to claw back most of Democrats’ $80 billion in IRS funding.
Steel also pointed to telehealth access as an important priority that could get done in the divided Congress.
Steel’s top donors in the last cycle include AIPAC, Home Depot Inc., tax and accounting giant PwC and investment fund manager AQR Capital Management.
‘Scooting’ onto Ways and Means
Moore may represent a heavily Republican northern Utah district he won by 35 points last year, but he’s interested in bipartisan solutions and is a Problem Solvers Caucus member. He says constituents repeatedly report federal debt and government spending as top concerns.
Moore put together a Utah-based task force on debt and deficits and described his spot on Ways and Means as a way to deliver on the promise of that work, which includes recommendations such as cutting government spending while preserving defense and “key welfare programs.”
Moore referenced bipartisan Senate talks about shoring up Social Security’s finances — another task force recommendation – saying he hopes to address the program’s looming insolvency, expected in the 2033 to 2035 timeframe, now instead of waiting.
He also wants to boost private retirement savings to avoid over-reliance on Social Security. Moore pointed to a bipartisan package to boost retirement savings enacted as part of the fiscal 2023 omnibus spending package as the sort of policy that lawmakers can and should pursue under divided government.
Moore added he cares deeply about adoption from the foster care system, an area he’s proposed legislation on and that intersects with Ways and Means’ jurisdiction over tax credits and social services.
A booklet that Moore used in his pitch to join the panel — which featured a photo of him riding a Vespa past the Capitol, saying he’d be “scooting” onto the committee with their support — noted his district has the second-largest IRS workforce in the country. That could come into play as the panel is set to make oversight of the tax collecting agency a top issue.
His top donors include the No Labels Problem Solvers PAC; ES3 Inc., an aerospace engineering firm with an office in Moore’s district; AIPAC and Salt Lake City-based Zions Bancorporation.
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