WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady will soon learn whether his goal of running the U.S. House's tax-writing committee will come to pass.
The Republican from The Woodlands has many things going in his favor to replace Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who left his old job as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee to become the House speaker. Namely, Brady is popular among his colleagues and is the most senior contender for the job.
But he’s running against an equally popular congressman, Rep. Pat Tiberi of Ohio. And much of the conversation around the race — which comes to a head this week — is revolving around the fact that Brady is from Texas.
Six Texans chair standing committees in the U.S. House, and Brady appears to be on the receiving end of Texas fatigue on Capitol Hill, which could imperil his Ways and Means bid. It's a concern that even members of the Texas delegation acknowledge.
“Well, that’s some of the discussion, and some of the rumors we’re hearing, that maybe people don’t like the fact that Texas has so many chairmen,” U.S. Rep. Randy Weber, R-Friendswood.
Brady will make his case Wednesday to a group of around 30 GOP House members called the House Republican Steering Committee. The committee, made up of those in leadership and members representing different regions of the country, will then vote to endorse a candidate.
Brady acknowledged the issue of multiple Texas chairmen last week in an interview with the Tribune.
"That's an issue, I think, in all the committee chairmanship races," Brady said. "We've overcome that in the past simply because our candidates are proven leaders. They've got broad support throughout Republican conference. They've done their work. They've paid their dues ... and so we'll make that same case."
After the steering committee makes its endorsement, all House Republicans will later vote on a new Ways and Means chairman, but it would be a historical aberration for the GOP caucus to override the committee’s will.
Ask nearly any Capitol Hill Republican about the state of the race between Brady and Tiberi, and the answer is: too close to call. Both men are well-respected, and more than one Republican described the race as an embarrassment of riches.
But ask a Texan, and the answer is cautious confidence that Brady will prevail.
And that dynamic crystalizes the annoyances of some non-Texan Republicans. With the Texas delegation's clear power as a voting bloc in the House, many other GOP members say the delegation's position borders on entitlement when it comes to leadership positions.
Texans make up about 10 percent of the Republican caucus. But it is the largest state voting bloc, and delegation members regularly sort through any differences to come to a near-consensus on leadership issues and avoid a fractured front.
As such, the Texans wield serious clout in Republican politics: While no Texans sit at the leadership table, they make up 29 percent of standing committee chairs.
They got to this point through a mix of seniority, a unified front and providing fundraising assistance to vulnerable incumbents.
Multiple Texas members insisted to the Tribune that with such a large delegation, so much power concentration is only fair. Weber argued that Texas' expansive economy justifies this kind of congressional firepower.
U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Lewisville, went even further.
"There's not enough," he said of Texas chairmen. "In fact, I can think of a few more in the years to come."
Other Texas members and staffers say the anti-Texas argument is probably a gracious out for someone already leaning toward backing Tiberi anyway.
But amid all of this, members often say it all comes down to one particularly powerful non-Texan: Ryan.
After consolidating nearly the entire GOP caucus behind his speaker bid just last week, Ryan is at the peak of his political power.
And in his new role, he has outsize influence over the outcome of the steering committee’s endorsement. More than just a steering committee member, his role as speaker affords him five votes.
Furthermore, multiple Republican staffers said some steering committee members could hold off on picking alliances and are waiting to follow Ryan's lead once his preference becomes known.
"The new speaker, Speaker Ryan, has a big voice in what happens," said Burgess. "It's my understanding that he's not indicating what he's likely to do."
Burgess acknowledged the difficult spot Ryan is in.
"I don't envy him at all," he added.
"They're both valuable members of his committee, where he has been chair," Burgess concluded. "So it's like having to pick your favorite child. But all things being equal, your favorite child should be a Texan."