Rep. Dave Camp said he looked back to former Ways and Means Chairman Bill Archer to find a suitable role model for his low-key, results-oriented style.
To be sure, things have not been altogether smooth for the committee, and Camp has had his share of failures. In February, conservatives rallied against a key trade bill that he and other rust-belt lawmakers supported. Extending the Trade Adjustment Assistance programs, which provide education and training for workers displaced by trade deals or outsourcing, was opposed by conservatives who balked at the cost.
Camp and House leaders thought they had sufficient support for passage but learned just hours before a scheduled vote that conservative defections were mounting. In an embarrassing defeat, the bill was pulled from the floor.
The second setback came last month, when Camp tried to move legislation overhauling unemployment insurance. That bill would use block grants to the states to pay for the program and has the backing of many conservative activists.
But Camp and Cantor were again forced to scrap a vote after a briefing for freshman lawmakers in which it became clear that support for the bill wasn't there. Although Members complained about not understanding the measure, aides familiar with the situation said Camp had fallen victim to circumstances beyond his control.
At the same time that he was looking to move the bill, Democrats were hammering the GOP over Budget Chairman Paul Ryan's (Wis.) sweeping changes to Medicare, and Republicans were spooked by anything resembling that proposal's block-grant plan.
Still, Camp said he has been pleased with the committee's work thus far, particularly on difficult issues.
"We're making good headway" on free-trade agreements, tax reform and other areas, he said.
But even when he acknowledges some problems, Camp makes no apologies for trying to push difficult bills. He said he is willing to risk hiccups to reform the way government works. On the unemployment bill, for example, Camp said the failed effort wasn't wasted.
"Every time you do something like that, the paybacks are there," he said. "They may not be there on day one."