By Don Walton, Lincoln Journal-Star, December 17, 2021, Updated January 3, 2022 —
Rep. Adrian Smith is strongly positioned to make a bid for the chairmanship of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee if Republicans gain control of the House in the 2022 election as most political prognosticators anticipate.
Smith and Rep. Vern Buchanan of Florida are contacting fellow Republicans in their bids to succeed retiring Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas as the top Republican on the committee in the wake of a decision by Rep. Devin Nunes of California to leave Congress and abandon his position as the front-runner to head the committee.
Both Smith and Buchanan are positioned by virtue of seniority to move up to the chairmanship of the committee that handles tax policy, health care, trade policy, Social Security and more among its broad range of responsibilities.
Smith, 50, was first elected to western and central Nebraska’s 3rd District House seat in 2006 and is serving his eighth term. Buchanan, 70, was elected to the House the same year.
“I think my perspective in coming from the Midwest would be valuable in representing agriculture and the importance of trade,” Smith said Tuesday in a telephone interview.
And, Smith said, his experience on the committee has given him “a great appreciation for the importance of tax reform.”
Smith is the ranking Republican member of the tax subcommittee, and that, he said, has given him “incredible perspective on tax reform,” especially during a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the economy.
No Nebraskan in modern times appears to have held a House or Senate committee chairmanship.
Smith, who hails from Gering, served in the Legislature from 1999 to 2007 before he was elected to Congress and succeeded former Rep. Tom Osborne as the 3rd District House member.
His district spreads across all of western and central Nebraska and includes the northeastern and southeastern corners of the state. It increased in size even more in the wake of redistricting this year.
In a lengthy story this week documenting the battle to head the Ways and Means Committee, Roll Call writer Laura Weiss noted that the winner of the emerging struggle between Smith and Buchanan “could hold considerable sway over economic policy” if Republicans gain control of the House.
“Buchanan, a business owner who’s proud of his ability to work across the aisle, and Smith, known as a hard worker who maintains a low profile, are seen as leading options who would reflect their party’s priorities,” she wrote.
“Buchanan is technically one rung higher than Smith under the chamber’s seniority system due to the Floridian’s last name coming earlier in the alphabet,” Weiss wrote, “but seniority isn’t what it used to be when it comes to winning coveted committee slots.”
Smith was described as “a strong advocate for farm policy, representing the biggest agricultural district in the country.
“He’s pitching himself as a leader with a thorough understanding of policy who’d hear out fellow Republicans, noting that he’d want to get freshmen involved, even if they’re not on Ways and Means.”
“Folks often describe me as a steady hand,” Smith said in the Roll Call interview.
“Someone who has a good grasp of the issues and is eager to move the ball down the field, and that always requires team effort.”
Smith identified a lack of work requirements for the child tax credit as a policy that he would want to reverse.