Earmark ban: Why GOP freshmen might just be getting started
The size of the GOP freshman class in both the House and Senate means that Republican leadership will have to take it seriously. The earmark ban in the Senate, adopted by Republicans Tuesday, represents an early victory.
The freshman class of 2010 – on Capitol Hill for orientation this week – isn’t following the conventional script about taking time to get to know the institution before throwing your weight around.Skip to next paragraph
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In a powerful debut, a handful of tea party-backed GOP freshmen pushed the Senate Republicans caucus on Tuesday to impose on itself a voluntary ban on earmarks – member projects often criticized as pork barrel spending – in the new Congress. Senate Republican leadership had long opposed such a move, but yielded to the pressure of outspoken senators-elect, who had campaigned to rein in wasteful spending, notably earmarks.
Senate majority leader Harry Reid said Tuesday he would allow for a vote on whether to ban the practice entirely in the Senate.
For Senate Republicans, freshman orientation 2010 is an unusually important moment, if only for the size of the incoming class. Four years ago, freshman orientation for Senate Republicans was a brief meeting between lone freshman Bob Corker of Tennessee and Republican leader Mitch McConnell. In 2008, the GOP freshmen class had doubled – to two. This year, the incoming GOP class numbers 13.
“They are a very energetic class and determined to tackle spending issues. It’s a theme that unites them,” says Sen. Susan Collins (R) of Maine, after meeting with freshmen at a Republican luncheon Tuesday. “I don’t see any waiting to take the measure of the place. I see them all jumping right in.”
House Republicans open doors to rookies
On the House side, Republicans announced that the 80-plus freshman class will be given two elected spots on the leadership team – up from zero – as well as three representatives on the Republican Steering committee in the 112th Congress.
“The best kind of government is government close to the people, and no one is closer to the people than the members of our new freshman class,” said Republican leader John Boehner, whip Eric Cantor of Virginia, and chief deputy whip Kevin McCarthy of California in a joint statement on Tuesday.
In the 435-member House of Representatives, freshmen are typically seen but not heard. Three-time Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn (D) of Texas famously advised freshmen: “Don’t try to go too fast. Learn your job. Don’t ever talk until you know what you’re talking about…. If you want to get along, go along.”