Houston-area U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady to retire at end of this term

Texas Politics

In this image from video, Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas., speaks on the floor of the House of Representatives at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Thursday, April 23, 2020. (House Television via AP)

WASHINGTON (Texas Tribune) — 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 at the House Ways and Means Committee, which legislates tax law.

He made the announcement in a meeting of the Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce Economic Outlook Conference.

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.

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 the Ways and Means chairmanship 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 where 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 chairmanship at 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.

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