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New lawmakers vow to renounce partisanship

Party leaders are likely to find congressional freshmen more independent than usual.

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In Colorado, Betsy Markey, an ice cream and coffee shop owner and former aide to Sen. Ken Salazar (D) of Colorado, defeated incumbent Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R) on a campaign pledge to rein in government spending and curb pork.

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In Idaho, Democrat Walt Minnick, a businessman and former Republican who once served in the Nixon White House, toppled one-term Rep. Bill Sali on a campaign to grow the economy by cutting taxes and reining in spending. He strongly opposed this year’s $700 billion bailout, a move he dubbed “fiscal recklessness.”

“Congress was asked and advised to take responsible and immediate action to save Main Street and prevent a global depression.

They were asked and advised to pass a bill with strong regulatory reforms and loans to shore up our struggling financial system. However, in yet another sign that the system in Washington is broken, the House approved a bill that is simply not the answer,” he said on his campaign website.

“This bill is a giveaway to Wall Street. It does not do enough to protect the American taxpayer, and it adds far too much debt to our record deficit,” he added.

In the 110th Congress, when Democrats had governed with a margin of only 26 votes, the 47-member Blue Dog caucus could have derailed leadership priorities and sometimes did.

But with the pickup of at least 24 House seats in the 111th Congress, Democrats have more scope to release members of their caucus from tough votes.

Rep. Rahm Emanuel, who this month signed on as President-elect Barack Obama’s chief of staff, took the lead in recruiting Democrats to win back a majority in the House in 2006.

“He did not tell these people to vote with the party all the time. He told them to vote against the party a lot of the time, if needed to hold the seat and keep their majority,” says David Wasserman, House editor for the Cook Political Report.

Democrats are retaining his playbook. You can bet he will still be in the White House to instruct them to do the same,” he adds.

Meanwhile, House Republicans are facing a smaller influx of members of Congress who are typically more conservative than their GOP colleagues.

Incoming Rep. Tom Rooney (R) of Florida defeated Rep. Tim Mahoney (D) on a campaign to cut spending and “fight for limited government.”

Newcomers like Mr. Rooney are expected to add weight to the conservative wing of the GOP caucus.

On Friday, conservative Rep. Dan Lungren announced that he will challenge Rep. John Boehner of Ohio for the post of House Republican leader.

“I am embarking on this effort because I think our party is in trouble [It runs] the risk of becoming a permanent congressional minority,” he said. Leadership elections are expected on Wednesday.

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