69.5 F
Mobile
72.8 F
Huntsville
71.2 F
Birmingham
60.4 F
Montgomery

Alabamian in the middle of one of DC’s hottest behind-the-scenes power struggles

United Stats Capitol
United Stats Capitol

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is one of the most recognizable faces in American politics. But even before being tapped to be Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate, Ryan was a powerful figure inside the Republican Party, and even more so inside the Republican conference of the U.S. House of Representatives.

As the chairman of the House Budget Committee, Ryan has for the last several years essentially crafted fiscal policy for the entire Republican Party. His “Path to Prosperity” budget proposals have been the target of liberal scorn. But Ryan’s once-shiny conservative luster has also faded in recent years as he’s found himself on the opposite side of the base on issues like immigration reform, but also because he’s been willing to compromise, which his supporters say makes him the kind of leader the GOP needs in order to govern.

And when it comes to governing, few posts are as influential as the chairmanship of the House Committee on Ways & Means, which is in charge of crafting federal tax policy. Late last year, Ryan started telling his colleagues that he was looking to take over the Ways & Means gavel in 2015. Current chairman Dave Camp was set to roll off as chairman, but he has since decided to retire, leaving what many presumed to be an easy assent for Ryan.

But last week, Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Tx.), who is currently the second-highest ranking Republican on Ways & Means (one spot ahead of Ryan), announced that he would be gunning for the top spot, too.

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Tx.) speaks at the CBP Trade Symposium in 2012 (Photo: James Tourtellotte)
Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Tx.) speaks at the CBP Trade Symposium in 2012 (Photo: James Tourtellotte)

Brady does not have anything close to the kind of profile that Ryan does nationally, and Ryan’s clout inside the Republican conference is rivaled only by the Speaker, but Brady is a serious candidate — so serious, in fact, that Ryan may have to move up the timetable on deciding whether or not to run for president in 2016.

According to the Washington Post’s Robert Costa, who tends to have the inside track on House leadership races, Ryan’s one notable vulnerability is that his colleagues are concerned he won’t “be fully committed to committee work as he simultaneously considers a bid for the White House.”

Brady has called Ryan a friend and says he expects the race to be cordial, but he has also made it clear that the Ways & Means chairmanship is his only aspiration, and that it will get his full attention.

At the center of Brady’s communications effort, both inside congress and to the press, is Shana Teehan, his press secretary. Alabamians who have spent any amount of time around Republican politics over the last decade may know her as Shana Kluck, her maiden name. She was the Alabama Republican Party’s communications director for several years, and prior to that was the co-owner of Forward Focus Media, an Alabama-based political communications firm.

Shana Teehan
Shana Teehan

Teehan moved to D.C. almost two years ago to be with her husband, Tim, who also works in politics. And now she finds herself at ground zero of the most notable power struggle on Capitol Hill since former Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s unexpected primary defeat set off a game of political musical chairs inside House leadership.

Her boss has an uphill battle ahead of him against Ryan, but after raising $1.6 million for the National Republican Congressional Committee and donating more than $285,000 directly to his Republican colleagues, the 59-year-old will continue being a major player in the House no matter where he lands. And wherever that is, he’ll have an Alabamian by his side.


Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

Don’t miss out!  Subscribe today to have Alabama’s leading headlines delivered to your inbox.