Nathan Stubbs

Boustany jockeys for coveted ways and means committee

by Nathan Stubbs

Recently elected to his third term, U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany of Lafayette is looking to emerge as more of a senior player in the new Congress. With the retirement of Reps. Richard Baker and Jim McCrery, Boustany is now the senior Republican Congressman in Louisiana, along with Rodney Alexander, who switched from a Democrat to Republican in 2004, the year Boustany was first elected.

Boustany is viewed as one of the frontrunners for one of six vacancies for Republican slots on the coveted Ways and Means committee. The tax-writing committee plays a significant role in virtually any major initiative the Congress takes up and has jurisdiction over all major entitlement programs including Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare. A story in today’s Poltico notes there is some intense jockeying going on among GOP reps for the ways and means seats. The article notes, “over the next two years, the panel will be front and center on health care reform, a middle-class tax cut and renewal of the Bush tax cuts, making it a sweet post for any Republican trying to emerge from the obscurity of life in the minority.” Citing him as a frontrunners for the committee, the paper quotes Boustany saying: “We need the committee to be constructed to at least be able to put up a fight. We’ve been working pretty hard and feel pretty good about it. I’ve gotten positive feedback from [Minority] Leader [John] Boehner, but certainly there are no commitments there.”

Party leaders are meeting this week in Washington to decide committee assigments. Should Boustany land on the Ways and Means committee, he would be following in the footsteps of McCrery, who recently stepped down from Congress after eight terms. McCrery became a ranking member of Ways and Means and was in line to become the committee’s chairman had the Republicans maintained a majority in the House. In a parting gesture, last year, McCrery handed off his Political Action Committeee, the Committee for the Preservation of Capitalism, to Boustany. The PAC, which raises funds for Republican candidates, helps raise Boustany’s political influence in the party.