United States House Committee on Ways and Means

The Committee on Ways and Means is the chief tax-writing committee of the United States House of Representatives. Members of the Ways and Means Committee are not allowed to serve on any other House Committee unless they are granted a waiver from their party's congressional leadership. The Committee has jurisdiction over all taxation, tariffs, and other revenue-raising measures, as well as a number of other programs including Social Security, unemployment benefits, Medicare, the enforcement of child support laws, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and foster care and adoption programs.

Committee on Ways and Means
116th United States Congress
Committee seal
FoundedDecember 21, 1795 (1795-12-21)
New session started
January 3, 2019 (2019-01-03)
Richard Neal (D)
since January 3, 2019
Ranking Member
Kevin Brady (R)
since January 3, 2019
Seats42 members
Political groups
Majority (Democratic)
Minority (Republican)

The United States Constitution requires that all bills regarding taxation must originate in the U.S. House of Representatives, and House rules dictate that all bills regarding taxation must pass through Ways and Means. This system imparts upon the committee and its members a significant degree of influence over other representatives, committees, and public policy. (See also, the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance.)

Recent chairmen have included Bill Thomas, Charlie Rangel, Sander Levin, Dave Camp, Paul Ryan and Kevin Brady. On January 3, 2019, Richard Neal was sworn in as the new Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means, upon the commencement of the 116th Congress.[1] He used his authority as chairman to formally request the tax returns of President Trump in April 2019, after Democrats had signaled their intention to do so on the midterms election night.


The conclusion of a ways and means committee to handle the financial matters of a legislature is an old one, having been used in the Parliament of the United Kingdom and the colonial and early state legislatures in America.

The Ways and Means Committee was first established during the first Congress, in 1789. However, this initial version was disbanded after only 8 weeks; for the next several years, only ad hoc committees were formed, to write up laws on notions already debated in the whole House. It was first established as a standing committee by resolution adopted December 21, 1795,[2] and first appeared among the list of regular standing committees on January 7, 1802.[3] Upon its original creation, it held power over both taxes and spending, until the spending power was given to the new Appropriations Committee in 1865.[4]

During the Civil War the key policy-maker in Congress was Thaddeus Stevens, as chairman of the Committee and Republican floor leader. He took charge of major legislation that funded the war effort and permanently transformed the nation's economic policies regarding tariffs, bonds, income and excise taxes, national banks, suppression of money issued by state banks, greenback currency, and western railroad land grants.[5] Stevens was one of the major policymakers regarding Reconstruction, and obtained a House vote of impeachment against President Andrew Johnson (who was acquitted by the Senate in 1868). Hans Trefousse, his leading biographer, concludes that Stevens "was one of the most influential representatives ever to serve in Congress. [He dominated] the House with his wit, knowledge of parliamentary law, and sheer willpower, even though he was often unable to prevail."[6] Historiographical views of Stevens have dramatically shifted over the years, from the early 20th-century view of Stevens and the Radical Republicans as tools of enormous business and motivated by hatred of the white South, to the perspective of the neoabolitionists of the 1950s and afterwards, who applauded their efforts to give equal rights to the freed slaves.

Three future presidents - James Polk, Millard Fillmore, and William McKinley - served as Committee Chairman. Before the official roles of floor leader came about in the late 19th century, the Chairman of Ways and Means was considered the Majority Leader. The Chairman is one of very few Representatives to have office space within the Capitol building itself.[7]

Political significance

Because of its wide jurisdiction, Ways and Means has always been one of the most important committees with respect to impact on policy. Although it lacks the prospects for reelection help that comes with the Appropriations Committee, it is seen as a valuable post for two reasons: given the wide array of interests that are affected by the committee, a seat makes it easy to collect campaign contributions[8] and since its range is broad, members with a wide array of policy concerns often seek positions to be able to influence policy decisions. Some recent major issues that have gone through the Ways and Means Committee include welfare reform, a Medicare prescription drug benefit, Social Security reform, George W. Bush's tax cuts, and trade agreements including the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).

Until 1974, the Ways and Means Committee decided which chairmanships newly elected members of Congress would have, along with its regular financial duties.[9] When Ways and Means chair Wilbur Mills' career ended in scandal, Congressman Phillip Burton transferred the committee's selection powers to a separate, newly created committee.[9]

Members, 116th Congress

Majority Minority

Historical membership rosters

115th Congress

Majority Minority


There are six subcommittees in the 116th Congress. In 2011, the Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support was renamed the Subcommittee on Human Resources, returning to the name it held prior to the 110th United States Congress.[10] In 2015, the Select Revenue Measures was renamed the Subcommittee on Tax Policy.[11] In 2019 these two subcommittees were again renamed under Democratic control; Human Resources became Worker and Family Support and Tax Policy was renamed to Select Revenue Measures.

Subcommittee Chair Ranking Member
Health Lloyd Doggett (D–TX) Devin Nunes (R–CA)
Worker and Family Support Danny K. Davis (D–IL) Jackie Walorski (R–IN)
Oversight John Lewis (D–GA) Mike Kelly (R–PA)
Select Revenue Measures Mike Thompson (D-CA) Adrian Smith (R–NE)
Social Security John B. Larson (D-CT) Tom Reed (R-NY)
Trade Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) Vern Buchanan (R–FL)

List of Chairs

#ChairPartyStateStart of ServiceEnd of Service
1Thomas FitzsimonsFederalistPA17891789
2William L. SmithFederalistSC17941797
3Robert G. HarperFederalistSC17971800
4Roger GriswoldFederalistCT18001801
5John RandolphDemocratic-RepublicanVA18011805
6Joseph ClayDemocratic-RepublicanPA18051807
7George W. CampbellDemocratic-RepublicanTN18071809
8John W. EppesDemocratic-RepublicanVA18091811
9Ezekiel BaconDemocratic-RepublicanSC18111812
10Langdon ChevesDemocratic-RepublicanSC18121813
11John W. EppesDemocratic-RepublicanVA18131815
12William LowndesDemocratic-RepublicanSC18151818
13Samuel SmithDemocratic-RepublicanMD18181822
14Louis McLaneDemocratic-RepublicanDE18221827
15John RandolphDemocraticVA18271827
16George McDuffieDemocraticSC18271832
17Gulian C. VerplanckDemocraticNY18321833
18James K. PolkDemocraticTN18331835
19Churchill C. CambrelengDemocraticNY18351839
20John W. JonesDemocraticVA18391841
21Millard FillmoreWhigNY18411843
22James I. McKayDemocraticNC18431847
23Samuel F. VintonWhigOH18471849
24Thomas H. BaylyDemocraticVA18491851
25George S. HoustonDemocraticAL18511855
26Lewis D. CampbellRepublicanOH18561857
27J. Glancy JonesDemocraticPA18571858
28John S. PhelpsDemocraticMO18581859
29John ShermanRepublicanOH18601861
30Thaddeus StevensRepublicanPA18611865
31Justin MorrillRepublicanVT18651867
32Robert C. SchenckRepublicanOH18671871
33Samuel HooperRepublicanMA18711871
34Henry L. DawesRepublicanMA18711875
35William R. MorrisonDemocraticIL18751877
36Fernando WoodDemocraticNY18771881
37John R. TuckerDemocraticVA18811881
38William D. KelleyRepublicanPA18811883
39William R. MorrisonDemocraticIL18831887
40Roger Q. MillsDemocraticTX18871889
41William McKinleyRepublicanOH18891891
42William M. SpringerDemocraticIL18911893
43William L. WilsonDemocraticWV18931895
44Nelson Dingley, Jr.RepublicanME18951899
45Sereno E. PayneRepublicanNY18991911
46Oscar W. UnderwoodDemocraticAL19111915
47Claude KitchinDemocraticNC19151919
48Joseph FordneyRepublicanMI19191923
49William R. GreenRepublicanIA19231928
50Willis C. HawleyRepublicanOR19281931
51James W. CollierDemocraticMS19311933
52Robert L. DoughtonDemocraticNC19331947
53Harold KnutsonRepublicanMN19471949
54Robert L. DoughtonDemocraticNC19491953
55Daniel A. ReedRepublicanNY19531955
56Jere CooperDemocraticTN19551957
57Wilbur MillsDemocraticAR19571975
Al Ullman (acting)DemocraticOR19731975
58Al UllmanDemocraticOR19751981
59Dan RostenkowskiDemocraticIL19811994
Sam Gibbons (acting)DemocraticFL19941995
60Bill ArcherRepublicanTX19952001
61Bill ThomasRepublicanCA20012007
62Charles RangelDemocraticNY20072010
Pete Stark (acting)DemocraticCA20102010
63Sander Levin (acting)DemocraticMI20102011
64Dave CampRepublicanMI20112015
65Paul RyanRepublicanWI20152015
66Kevin BradyRepublicanTX20152019
67Richard NealDemocraticMA2019Present

See also


  1. Herb, Jeremy (January 1, 2019). "The 5 House chairs who are about to make life much harder for Trump". CNN. Retrieved January 21, 2019.
  2. Ways and Means Bicentennial History, Page 38
  3. Ways and Means Bicentennial History, Page 58
  4. Cannon, J. M., Time and Chance: Gerald Ford's Appointment with History (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994), p. 58.
  5. Heather Cox Richardson (1997). The Greatest Nation of the Earth: Republican Economic Policies During the Civil War. Harvard University Press. pp. 9, 41, 52, 111, 116, 120, 182, 202.
  6. Hans L. Trefousse (1991). Historical Dictionary of Reconstruction. Greenwood. p. 214.
  7. Schraufnagel, S., Historical Dictionary of the U.S. Congress (Lanham: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2011), p. 239.
  8. Grier, Kevin; Munger, Michael (1991). "Committee Assignments, Constituent Preferences and Campaign Contributions". Economic Inquiry. 29 (1): 24–43. doi:10.1111/j.1465-7295.1991.tb01250.x.
  9. Frum, David (2000). How We Got Here: The '70s. New York, New York: Basic Books. pp. 276–279. ISBN 0-465-04195-7.
  10. "Chairman Camp Announces Republican Membership on Ways & Means Subcommittees for 113th Congress". January 15, 2013. Retrieved January 22, 2013.
  11. "Chairman Brady Announces Republican Subcommittee Chairs, Members". November 18, 2015. Retrieved November 18, 2015.
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