Kevin Brady likes and respects Paul Ryan—but he doesn't fear him.
Brady, a Texas Republican, is next in line to chair the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. When Chairman Dave Camp steps down in 2015 due to term limits, Brady, the most senior Republican on the panel, plans to replace him.
But seniority isn't everything on Capitol Hill—not when Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, former vice presidential nominee, and conservative wunderkind is concerned.
Ryan, who is term-limited on the Budget Committee, declared in mid-December that the Ways and Means chairmanship would be his next pursuit. It's been widely assumed since then that he would be awarded that job without hesitation. Ryan is well-liked by leadership, respected throughout the conference, versed in issues of taxation, and outranks almost every Republican on Ways and Means.
Everyone, except for Brady.
In an interview taped for C-SPAN's Newsmakers, Brady said Ryan is a "terrific leader" but made clear that he won't give up the Ways and Means gavel without a fight.
"Bottom line, I feel like I'm qualified and prepared to lead the committee, and at the right time I'm going to make that case to my colleagues," Brady said. "I think we have a strong case to make."
But Brady, who also called Ryan "a terrific friend," emphasized that the internal campaigning will be respectful.
Brady on Paul Ryan and the House Ways and Means Committee Chairmanship
"I don't expect it to be acrimonious in any way. The truth is, Paul and I have similar principles on many of these issues," Brady said. "We are friends. We talk about this. We're clearly both focused on being positioned to lead this committee in the future."
Ryan's office declined to comment.
The chairmanships of various House committees are determined by the Republican Steering Committee, comprised of leadership officials as well as some rank-and-file lawmakers. The Steering Committee interviews candidates before making recommendations on chairmanships, which are then brought before the entire House Republican Conference for ratification.
Brady said "the time is not quite right" to begin campaigning for the position, and he would not specify how much longer he'll wait. But he pointed out that with Camp's recent release of the committee's tax reform proposal—one three years in the making—both he and Ryan are consumed with promoting Camp's plan.
"We're both, in my view, focused on helping advance this tax-reform discussion draft, which I think is critical," Brady said, later adding: "We're fortunate that we're going to build off a very strong foundation from Chairman Camp."
Brady, though well-respected in conservative circles and well-liked by Republican leadership, isn't the imposing figure on the Hill that Ryan is. Still, he doesn't sound afraid to go toe-to-toe with the man who could one day occupy the speaker's office, if not the White House.
"I think a competition of ideas is really healthy for our conference," Brady said.
Newsmakers airs on Sunday mornings at 10 a.m. Eastern time.
This article appears in the March 10, 2014 edition of NJ Daily.