Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D) is preparing to take the top spot on the Democrats side of the Budget Committee.
With a more conservative Republican Party readying to take control of the House in January, the number one issue in the next Congress promises to be reducing the deficit. But when the broad rhetoric of slashing spending meets with specific programs like Medicare or Social Security, Democrats are promising to fight back -- and Van Hollen will be one of their first lines of defense.
"I believe that the Budget Committee is going to be the center of major national conversation about how we get our economy moving again, how we put people back to work and how we do it in a fiscally accountable and responsible way," Van Hollen says.
Van Hollen has never sat on the Budget Committee but was given the post after serving two terms as head of the House Democrats campaign arm. His GOP counterpart, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), says Van Hollen has some catching up to do.
"Well he's one of their stars in their party. He's a smart guy; he'll be a quick study. It's complicated subject matter, usually takes people a long time to understand it, but Chris is a smart guy so I'm sure he'll come up to speed," Ryan says.
Both men say they hope to keep politics out of the committee room, but analysts predict it will be one of the more contentious committees on Capitol Hill.