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WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands, announced Wednesday morning that this will be his last term serving in the U.S. House.
First elected in 1996, Brady is one of the most senior members of the Texas delegation and a powerful player within the House Republican conference. The announcement was widely expected as he was facing a term limit in his role as the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, which legislates tax law.
"I am retiring as your Congressman. This term, my 13th, will be my last," he announced during remarks at the Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce Economic Outlook Conference. "I set out originally to give my constituents the representation you deserve, the effectiveness you want and the economic freedom you need. I hope I delivered."
Brady is the second Texas member of Congress to announce that this would be his final term. Last month, Democratic U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela of Brownsville announced his own retirement.
"Is this because I’ve lost faith in a partisan Congress and the political system? Absolutely not," Brady said. "I work with some of the most dedicated people in the nation — talented, hardworking and serious about their responsibilities — in both parties. And after 25 years in the nation’s Capitol, I haven’t yet seen a problem we can’t solve or move past. Not one. Especially when we put our ideas and our best intentions together.
"As you may not know, because House Republicans limit committee leaders to six-year terms, I won’t be able to chair the Ways and Means Committee in the next session when Republicans win back the majority. Did that factor into that decision? Yeah, some.
"But as I see it, our committee leader term limits ensure lawmakers who work hard and who work effectively someday have the opportunity to lead, to bring fresh, new ideas to every committee we have. In my view, it’s a good thing."
Brady, a South Dakota native, ran the local chamber of commerce in Montgomery County for nearly two decades. He ran for and won a seat in the Texas House in 1990 and came to Congress in 1996.
In his time on Capitol Hill, Brady has had no reservations about engaging in partisan fights, but he mostly carried himself with a sunny disposition. So much so that after he unsuccessfully ran for Ways and Means chair his first bid, the man who won the gavel — future House Speaker Paul Ryan — threw his support behind Brady during Brady’s second and successful run in 2015.
The pinnacle of Brady’s career came in late 2017, when he spearheaded the successful Republican push to drastically reduce taxes. That win came after Republicans failed to unwind former President Barack Obama’s 2010 health care law.
The tax overhaul was the party’s most significant legislative achievement in the Trump era, but it is also expected to increase the federal deficit.
Brady was also a fixture on the Congressional Republican baseball team. Brady left the GOP team’s final morning practice a few minutes early in 2017, narrowly missing a shooter who injured his close friend and roommate, then-House Majority Whip Steve Scalise.
Brady’s retirement will set off a scramble to replace him.
The population center of his district is Montgomery County, a potent Republican stronghold in the northern Houston suburban region. In its current form, the 8th District extends north into the Piney Woods. It will likely see some changes in this year’s round of redistricting.
It is difficult, however, to see any scenario in which this seat becomes competitive territory for Democrats. Brady never won reelection with less than 59% of the vote, and he frequently won in more recent cycles by 50-percentage-point margins. In 2020, then-President Donald Trump carried the 8th District by a 42-point margin over future President Joe Biden.
Brady’s retirement underscores a decline in clout over the years for Texas House Republicans and the inevitable rebuilding phase through which the Texas GOP delegation is undergoing.
Only five years ago, seven Texas Republicans ran House committees. Most have retired. Rep. Michael McCaul was term-limited from his position as chair of the House Homeland Security Committee but is now the top Republican at the Foreign Affairs Committee.
U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions led the House Rules Committee but lost reelection in 2018. He has since returned to Congress in another district but, for now, remains a rank-and-file member.
With Democrats in control of the U.S. House, there is one current chair from Texas. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas, leads the House Science, Space and Technology Committee.
Should Republicans take power in the House in 2022, U.S. Rep. Kay Granger of Fort Worth could be postured to run the House Appropriations Committee.
As for Brady, he said he remains optimistic about the country's future.
"In the end, I’ll leave Congress the way I entered it, with the absolute belief that we are a remarkable nation: the greatest in history," he said. "Despite what the media and the social media bombard you with each day, we are not the hateful, racist, divided nation that we are peddled about. They are dead wrong. Turn off all that noise and you’ll hear the true heartbeat of America."
Republicans reacted with praise and sadness.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Wednesday said Brady has "the ‘happy warrior’ disposition of conservative champions like Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp," while Brady's fellow Texan, U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess of Lewisville said that "the halls of Congress will not be the same without him."