December 11, 2008

Rep. Jim McCrery (R-La.), the ranking member on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, is making the jump to K Street.

The retiring 10-term member is joining Capitol Counsel as a partner in January, the firm announced Thursday.

The move pairs McCrery and his Ways and Means creds with firm founder John D. Raffaelli, a top Democratic tax lobbyist.

“With Capitol Counsel’s excellent lineup of seasoned professionals, and the firm’s established expertise in taxes, health care, and trade, the firm provides a natural fit for my interests and experience,” McCrery said in a statement.

McCrery announced last December that he planned to retire at the end of this term as it became clear that the GOP had little chance of regaining the House in 2008.

“Capitol Counsel prides itself on effectively navigating politics, policy, and process, and Congressman McCrery is widely respected for his mastery of all three,” Raffaelli said in the release. “While Capitol Counsel has had a distinct Democratic tilt since its inception, the addition of Jim McCrery will give the firm plenty of firepower to reach both sides of the aisle.”

Politico’s own Patrick O’Connor describes McCrery as “the rare combination of studied policy wonk and keen political operator,” and the Louisiana Republican was instrumental in crafting President Bush’s tax cuts in 2001 and 2003 and in helping write welfare reform legislation in 1996. He is also a 14-year veteran of the panel’s Health subcommittee, and such expertise will be quite valuable as Congress tackles major health care reform next year.

The soft-spoken McCrery has shown himself able to work across the aisle, having reached out early to Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel when Democrats took over in 2006 and building a steady relationship with the New York Democrat.

McCrery considered retiring earlier but decided to stick around when GOP leaders dangled the Ways and Means chairmanship. But he never got to wield the gavel.

“I have tried hard this year as the ranking member of the Ways and Means Committee to be a major influence on important issues,” McCrery said in a statement in December 2007 announcing his retirement plans. “But on tax reform, Medicare and health care reform, and Social Security reform, our best efforts have come to naught.”