Addressing Questions About Rep. Richard Neal’s Seniority

(April 5, 2018 - Springfield, Mass.) Candidate for Congress in the First Congressional District, Tahirah Amatul-Wadud, issued the following statement regarding the seniority of Rep. Richard Neal:

There seems to be some concern in certain quarters about the effect my primary challenge would have on Rep. Richard Neal’s seniority should the Democrats capture the U.S. House in the November election. Let me address these concerns.

The rules and procedures of the Democratic Caucus governing the selection and leadership of House standing committee chairs and ranking minority members are quite clear:

Other chair/ranking Member nominations are made by the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee and voted on by the entire Democratic Caucus. In making selections, the Steering Committee considers, pursuant to caucus rules, “merit, length of service on the committee and degree of commitment to the Democratic agenda of the nominee, and the diversity of the Caucus.”*

When I defeat Mr. Neal on September 4 and then secure the general election, the House Committee on Ways and Means will have new Democratic leadership in the 116th Congress with a new chair (if the Democrats are in the majority) or a new ranking minority member. With Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI) retiring, the second-ranking Democrat will be Rep. John Lewis (D-GA). Elected in 1986, Mr. Lewis is an African-American and an icon of the civil rights movement. Behind Mr. Lewis, as the currently fourth-ranked Democrat is Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Austin, TX. Mr. Doggett, elected in 1994 has compiled a very progressive record during his tenure on the committee. Under Rep. Lewis or Rep. Doggett, the committee’s Democrats will be in good hands.

Considering Mr. Neal’s time on the committee, it is perfectly fair to ask what kind of chairman he would be if the Democrats regain the House majority. Rep. Neal’s voting record and advocacy of certain trade and tax policies suggest he would pursue an agenda favored by corporate special interests as opposed to those constituents in our congressional district. Some examples:

Neal is a strong proponent of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and he co-chairs the TTIP Caucus. But this trade deal has been criticized as an attack on consumer and environmental laws, a threat to renewable energy policies, and for weakening financial reforms. Neal was not one of the five Ways & Means Committee Democrats to sign a December 17, 2014 letter to then-President Obama objecting to Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions in TTIP.

In 2015, Mr. Neal pushed a corporate tax loophole with then-Rep. Charles Boustany, a conservative Louisiana Republican called the “innovation box” that would have taxed profits on intellectual property at a lower rate than other profits. Even the right-wing Heritage Foundation called this legislation "complex and unsound policy". 

During the long debate in 2015 on renewing Trade Promotion Authority (“TPA”) otherwise known as Fast Track to give then-President Obama authority to finalize trade deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and TTIP, Mr. Neal refused to meet with citizens at his district offices to discuss his position on the legislation. Under tremendous pressure from organized labor and other constituents, Mr. Neal ultimately voted against TPA. However, he benefited from the best of both worlds: he collected $945,680.00 in campaign contributions from corporations backing TPA and he also collected $21,000.00 from anti-TPA donors leading up to the June 12, 2015 vote.

These actions raise serious questions about whose side Mr. Neal would be on if he were to wield the gavel of the powerful Ways & Means Committee as its next chair. According to the latest numbers by the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016 American Community Survey, MA-1 has the lowest median household income ($55,716), the second-highest unemployment rate (6.3%) and the second-highest percentage of families/people below the poverty level (10.2%) of all nine congressional districts. His membership hasn’t served us yet. We literally can’t afford a chair or ranking minority member who will exacerbate income inequality and wage stagnation.

*(Source: House Standing Committee Chairs and Ranking Minority Members: Rules Governing Selection Procedures, Congressional Research Service, September 8, 2016)