When you’re the new guy trying to get respect in the big House, you go after the craziest person in there.
For freshman Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D–Fort Greene), that man is Rep. Paul Ryan (R–Wisconsin).
Brooklyn’s newly minted congressman says he will use his seat on the House Budget Committee to challenge the former vice-presidential candidate, who chairs the panel.
“I’ll be right across the negotiating table from Paul Ryan on the debt ceiling, and sequestration, and the future of important entitlement programs,” the legislator told his constituents at a community board meeting earlier this month. “So if he starts acting up, I may just have to get Brooklyn on him!”
Jeffries was a bit more diplomatic in a phone interview with this newspaper last week, assuring voters that when he gets Brooklyn on somebody, he does so with all due respect.
“We must continue to articulate a vision for America designed to create progress for the greatest number of people possible, as opposed to simply promoting prosperity for the few,” said Jeffries. “Under the leadership of Paul Ryan, a very different vision than that of the constituents that I represent has been put forth by the House Budget Committee.”
Jeffries has not yet introduced himself to Ryan — who has pushed to reduce taxes and privatize parts of Social Security and Medicare. But the Brooklyn politico thinks he might be able to find middle ground with the Wisconsin rep.
“Congressmen Ryan is clearly a good man who cares about this country — he did vote for the fiscal cliff deal that I supported and that was negotiated by the White House and Democrats in the Senate,” said Jeffries. “That’s a wonderful starting point.”
Jeffries said he is eager to bring to Washington the experience he gained in Albany during the past five years — and that he is looking forward to his first encounter with the world’s most powerful former Brooklynite: President Obama, an ex-Park Sloper.
“The first chance I get to visit the White House, I will raise the question of President Obama’s Park Slope residency,” Jeffries said.Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at erosenberg