11/10/2010 10:34 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Van Hollen Makes Play For Budget Committee, Eying Showdown With Paul Ryan

WASHINGTON -- Soon-to-be former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) formally announced on Wednesday that he is making a run for the vacated role of ranking member of the House Budget Committee.

The Maryland Democrat sent out a "Dear Colleague" letter, touting his capacity to provide effective pushback against Republicans, both in the wonkish realm of number-crunching and the broader ideological battles that emanate from within that committee's jurisdiction.

"Over the next two years we will be engaged in a critical debate over how best to strengthen our economy and move our country forward for all Americans," Van Hollen wrote. "The Budget Committee will be a central front in this national conversation about how to accelerate job creation and economic growth. This will not just be a fight over numbers. It is ultimately a debate about who we are and the future direction of our country."

A close advisory to the Congressman went even further, saying he relished the opportunity to butt heads with one of the GOP's rising stars: incoming Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.).

"He wants to do it because this is going to be a central fight in the early months of the Republican majority," said the adviser. He sees it as a way to clearly contrast the parties and he likes the idea of going toe-to-toe with Paul Ryan on ideas. And within the budget battle, there are very important policy debates that occur whether it be on the Bush tax cuts, spending levels, Social Security and Medicare, veterans. It is really one of the first areas where there is going to be a healthy debate between the new Republican majority and House Democrats."

Van Hollen does not currently serve on the budget committee, which makes it a bit difficult to argue that he should now be its ranking member. The 2010 elections, meanwhile, did a bit of damage to his reputation for having one of the sharpest political IQs in the caucus. That said, it didn't do as much damage as a 60+ loss of seats in the House would suggest. The Maryland Democrat is still regarded as a rising star in the party and a savvy pol on both policy and political matters. And while he's foreign to the committee, he has dealt with fiscal matters while on the Ways and Means Committee. He also has the support of members. U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, who is the committee's vice chair and next in line for the top post (vacated after South Carolina Rep. John Spratt lost election) is backing Van Hollen.