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California in Congress

Los Angeles Rep. Xavier Becerra makes a bid to lead Democrats on House tax-writing committee

 (Susan Walsh / Associated Press)
(Susan Walsh / Associated Press)

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles) is seeking to become the ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee following news Tuesday that the current ranking member Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) will not run for the position again.

Levin, 85, said it was time to give younger members a chance to lead Democrats on the powerful tax-writing committee ahead of expected fights with the Trump administration and House Republicans over healthcare policy and tax reform.

Becerra asked for support in a letter to colleagues Tuesday night.

“With the White House and Congress in Republican hands, we need a strong, experienced and energetic leader who will take the fight for our democratic values on the Ways and Means Committee to the American people,” Becerra said. “Over the next two years, many of America’s toughest policy decisions will play out in this committee.

The member who will become the Democrats' next leader on the committee isn’t determined by seniority. The ranking member elections have not yet been scheduled. Becerra is the committee’s sixth-highest ranking Democrat, and the ranking Democrat on its Social Security Subcommittee.

The committee’s second- and third-ranking Democrats, Reps. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) and Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), are both retiring this year. Though he hasn’t officially signaled one way or the other, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) the fourth-ranking Democrat on the committee isn’t expected to pursue the job.

That leaves the race down to Becerra and the fifth-highest ranking Democrat on the committee, Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), who challenged Levin for the ranking member position in 2010 and lost. Neal has not said if he plans to run.

Becerra, the fourth-highest ranking Democrat and the most senior Latino in the House, is term-limited as caucus chairman and had no other step upward in House leadership unless House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-M.D.) or Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn (D-S.C.) stepped down. The three are up for reelection in Wednesday morning's leadership vote.

Becerra was a vocal surrogate for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, and spent the last year crisscrossing the country for her and for House candidates. His name was floated as an early possibility for vice president, or for a cabinet position. 

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