NAICU Washington Update

Ways and Means Leadership Change Looks Positive for Higher Ed

March 09, 2010

House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) resigned his post last week amid a new round of controversy - an alleged inappropriate use of official funds and disregard of official travel policy rules, among other things.  The Ways and Means Committee is one of the most powerful committees in the House, having jurisdiction over tax policy and health care legislation.

After Rangel's resignation, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi quickly announced that Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) would replace Rangel as chair.  While Stark was next in seniority at the committee, he has a long history of rubbing his colleagues the wrong way, and has missed numerous votes recently.  As news of Stark's appointment rippled through Washington on March 2, House members expressed deep reservations.  The next day, in a surprising round of musical chairs, Pelosi announced that Stark would not be chairing Ways and Means after all, and Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.) would take the helm instead.

Levin is a long-time member of the committee, and ranks third in seniority after Rangel and Stark.  He's a well-regarded member, with a long history of support for the soon-to-expire higher education tax incentives.  Many times over the years, he has personally sponsored bills to make Sec. 127 - employer-provided education assistance - permanent.

It's not clear how significantly Levin's chairmanship will change the legislative agenda.  Still, those advocating for higher education look forward to continued work with him on the expiring tax benefits that are so important to colleges, their students, and families.

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