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Philly gains in Congress: Brendan Boyle, Dwight Evans land on powerful committee

Philadelphia's Brendan Boyle and Dwight Evans were named to the House Ways and Means committee, which has significant influence and often serves as a platform for bigger ambitions.

U.S. Reps. Dwight Evans (left) and Brendan Boyle (right) were both named to the Ways and Means Committee in the U.S. House, giving them each a prestigious appointment on a powerful panel.
U.S. Reps. Dwight Evans (left) and Brendan Boyle (right) were both named to the Ways and Means Committee in the U.S. House, giving them each a prestigious appointment on a powerful panel.Read moreTOM GRALISH / Staff - left; SUSAN WALSH / AP - right

WASHINGTON — Two Philadelphians have been named to the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, appointments that could boost the city’s power in Congress and the profiles of two ambitious lawmakers.

Reps. Brendan Boyle and Dwight Evans, both Democrats, were named to the committee Wednesday.

The panel is one of Congress' most prestigious. It primarily handles tax policy, but that gives it broad influence over the economy and trade. The committee was central to the two most significant legislative achievements of both Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump — the Affordable Care Act and the GOP tax bill.

Democrats now plan to use the committee to try to force Trump to release his tax returns, an effort Evans and Boyle both said they support.

By dint of their influence, members of the committee also typically draw massive campaign donations and can build a platform for bigger ambitions.

Seven presidents, eight vice presidents, and 21 House speakers have served on the panel, Boyle noted in a statement. He added that at 41, he will be one of the youngest members. The last Philadelphian to serve on the panel was William J. Green III, Evans said. He left Congress in 1976 and would later become mayor.

“This is extremely significant to the region and to the state,” Evans said. “We’ve got to show, in a very specific way, outcomes.”

Major legislation from Democrats will still face significant hurdles, given Republican control of the Senate, but Evans hoped to use the committee to advance plans to rebuild crumbling schools, boost infrastructure investments, and shore up private pension funds.

“If you’re going to address the issue of poverty and close the gap, the school repair aspect of it is very essential,” he said.

Evans said Democrats might also revisit the GOP tax bill, including its limits on the State and Local Tax Deduction, a significant concern in high-tax states.

Boyle said he hopes to use the seat to protect the Affordable Care Act, Social Security, and Medicare, and “be a force against GOP economics, which favors the 1 percent over middle-class Americans.” He also hoped to address student loan debt.

“Serving on this storied and powerful committee will allow me to fight for Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania like never before,” Boyle said in a statement.

While larger states often have multiple members on powerful committees, it is less common for two from the same city to land on such a panel. Boyle had support from senior Democrats in the region, including former Rep. Bob Brady, while Evans won backing from the Congressional Black Caucus.

Former Rep. Allyson Y. Schwartz of Montgomery County was the last Pennsylvania Democrat on the committee. She left Congress to run for governor in 2014. Her district included part of Philadelphia.

On the Republican side, U.S. Reps. Pat Meehan of Delaware County and Mike Kelly of Erie County were also on the committee in the last Congress. Meehan resigned from Congress last year.

Many other lawmakers are awaiting new committee assignments, though newly elected Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, a Delaware County Democrat, was named to the House Rules Committee, which oversees process and procedure, giving it influence over key debates. Scanlon is the first Pennsylvania woman to sit on the panel, her office said.