Nearly one year after Rep. Ron Paul of Texas said he would leave Congress at the end of his 12th term, his successor as the Federal Reserve‘s chief critic has yet to emerge on Capitol Hill.
The 76-year-old lawmaker and frequent GOP presidential candidate has spawned a legion of admirers in Congress, many of whom echo his obstreperous rhetoric and libertarian-leaning positions. But none have managed to meld Mr. Paul’s cheerfully contrarian temperament with his hard-line stance on abolishing the U.S. central bank.
“Ron Paul is unique. He is special. And he can’t be replaced,” said Rep. Patrick McHenry (R., N.C.), a member of the House Financial Services Committee panel on domestic monetary policy chaired by Mr. Paul.
A handful of lawmakers have undertaken some of the ferocious scrutiny of the Fed that helped define Mr. Paul’s persona and energize his Internet-fueled following. Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont teamed up with Mr. Paul to push for more transparency from the central bank and has continued on his own mission to dismantle conflicts of interest on the boards of Fed regional banks.
Among House Republicans, fellow Texan Kevin Brady has ascended in certain monetary-policy circles after unveiling legislation this year that would whittle down the Fed’s dual mandate and have it focus just on price stability. Currently the central bank is tasked with striving for both stable prices and full employment.
In April, Mr. Brady went to New York to present his legislation to the Shadow Open Market Committee, an independent, largely academic organization that evaluates the Fed’s policy choices.
But Mr. Brady’s quiet push to restructure the Fed sets him apart from Mr. Paul and his blistering attacks, members of the independent group said after dissecting Mr. Brady’s bill with him in private over dinner in New York and in public at its spring symposium.
“He’s talking about what’s wrong, but he’s not trashing the Fed,” said Columbia Business School finance professor Charles Calomiris, a member of the Shadow Open Market Committee. “It’s not a campaign.”
Hewing closer to Mr. Paul’s desire to “end the Fed” is the vice chair of his monetary policy subcommittee, Rep. Walter Jones (R., N.C.).
“I wish we didn’t have a Federal Reserve, but I don’t see it going away,” Mr. Jones said in a recent interview. But the central bank’s operations take a lower priority for Mr. Jones, who cites campaign finance as among his other top concerns.
Of the last 10 press releases posted on Mr. Jones’s official House website, only one involves the Fed, while three focus on his bill preserving access to part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
“I have the interest and the concern [about the Fed], but I have a lot of other issues I’m working on,” Mr. Jones said.
When it comes to temperament, the soft-spoken Messrs. Brady and Jones diverge more from Mr. Paul than some other, more fiery conservative lawmakers.
At a House hearing last week, Rep. Justin Amash (R., Mich.) quoted both Mr. Paul and the late Friedrich Hayek, a member of the Austrian School of economic thought embraced by many of Mr. Paul’s supporters.