US Rep. Richard Neal secures House Ways and Means chairmanship
After weeks of speculation, House Democrats formally voted Thursday to name U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, as the chamber's next Ways and Means Committee chairman -- a position that will make him one of the most powerful lawmakers when the new Congress convenes in January.
Neal, who has served as the tax-writing panel's ranking member since December 2016, officially secured the chairmanship position as the caucus met behind closed doors. The vote came after the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee weighed in on committee leadership.
The Springfield Democrat thanked House Democrats for supporting his bid to lead the Ways and Means Committee, which is charged with overseeing tax, trade and other revenue-related policies.
"We must use our majority on the Ways & Means Committee to advance policies that put American families first," Neal said in a statement. "I will continue my fight for tax policies that are fair to working families and small businesses. I will work with my colleagues to develop innovative solutions to rebuild our infrastructure needs."
As the new Ways and Means Committee chairman Neal is expected to focus on health care -- particularly ensuring protections for pre-existing conditions -- and issues tied to the recent GOP-backed tax overhaul legislation.
Neal said he will "oppose efforts to privatize Social Security and slash Medicare and will propose new ways for Americans to save for retirement and access affordable health care."
The congressman has also said he's committed to pushing for new infrastructure spending and examining the Trump administration's trade policies.
Neal has also said he would use the chairmanship position, if necessary, to request President Donald Trump's tax documents, telling reporters in November that although it's illegal for any one member of Congress to release a person's tax returns, the House Ways and Means Committee chairman "has the ability to ask for" such information.
However, he acknowledged that such a move would likely spark legal challenges.
Neal is the latest member of Massachusetts' congressional delegation to win a high-profile post in the new Democrat-led House of Representatives.
He joins U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Melrose, who was elected to serve as the House Democratic Caucus' new vice chair late last month.
U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Worcester, meanwhile, was set to be named the House Rules Committee's new chairman for the 116th Congress Thursday.
Neal will take over leadership the Ways and Means Committee -- which is the oldest panel in the U.S. Congress -- from current Chairman U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, in early January.
Over the years, the Ways and Means Committee's membership has included eight president, eight vice presidents, 21 House speakers and four U.S. Supreme Court justices.