Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) was elected Tuesday to lead the House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee.
The Oregon lawmaker won the spot over Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), who was the subcommittee’s ranking Democrat for the last two years and made a major push to sway committee members to support his bid for the gavel.
Blumenauer was the most senior Ways and Means member with an interest in the trade spot, which meant he was granted the first up-or-down vote from other committee members on the position.
The trade subcommittee chairman will be central to oversight of President Donald Trump’s trade agenda, which includes getting a revamped NAFTA deal passed in Congress this year. Pascrell had promised to bring new transparency to the White House‘s trade policy.
“We’ll think about it,” Pascrell said when asked if he would appeal the selection to the Democratic House Steering and Policy Committee.
He added that “the committee is more important than any individual person. I keep that in mind all the time. But there were certain things in the process that I absolutely did not like, so I’ll think about that.”
Blumenauer has been supportive of certain trade deals and voted in 2015 to grant the White House authority to expedite passage of trade agreements through Congress. His position on the so-called trade promotion authority bill drew major rebuke from labor unions, which actively worked in past weeks to get panel members to support Pascrell.
In addition to playing a key role as Congress considers the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement in coming months, Blumenauer will be in a position to influence upcoming trade negotiations with Japan, the European Union and the United Kingdom.
Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), a Democrat who was added to the subcommittee for the 116th Congress, said the panel’s focus should be defending Congress’ constitutional authority over trade and not being “in a position of seeing trade deals negotiated [and] determine the guideposts after the deals are negotiated.” He did not say who he supported for the subcommittee leadership post.
Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) also announced full Democratic membership of the trade subcommittee. In addition to Blumenauer and Pascrell, the panel will include: Reps. Ron Kind (Wis.), Danny Davis (Ill.), and Brian Higgins (N.Y.), along with new members Terri Sewell (Ala.), Suzan DelBene (Wash.), Don Beyer (Va.), Jimmy Panetta (Calif.), Stephanie Murphy (Fla.) and Kildee.
“With these members at the helm of our subcommittees, the American people can rest assured their priorities will receive much-needed attention and care,” Neal said in a statement.