Feb. 7, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

GOP Leaders Coaching Freshmen

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Rep. Michael Grimm said he’s prepared to defend his votes back home in New York because he thinks the GOP has been more fiscally responsible than the Democrats.

Freshman GOP lawmakers are returning home for the recess with a messaging plan in lock step with their leadership, despite failing to win the deep spending cuts that they have sought since their first days in Washington, D.C. 

“We came here to change the culture of Washington, and in our first 100 days I believe we accomplished that,” said first-term Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.), mimicking the message that GOP leaders were also touting last week. “We’re arguing over how deep the cuts need to be, and that didn’t happen last year. Now we’re going to do the big things: the budget and the debt limit.” 

Members back at home this week will whip out their dog-eared copies of the “Pledge to America,” the GOP’s definitive document of goals unveiled late last year, and remind constituents that one by one they are scratching items off the list. According to a separate messaging document obtained by Roll Call, all Members of the GOP Conference are advised to tout cuts in government spending, as well as their votes to end housing programs enacted under the politically toxic Troubled Asset Relief Program. They are also asked to talk about the passage of Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity” budget outline for 2012. 

Several freshman lawmakers interviewed before the recess were already sounding those themes and pledged to talk up the Wisconsin Republican’s budget back home despite its controversial provisions on Medicare and Medicaid. As for government spending, while conservatives have complained the continuing resolution did not cut the full $61 billion sought by the GOP’s right flank, Members are prepared to remind constituents that they are making progress in a continued effort to restrain Washington spending.  

Rep. Bill Huizenga, who bucked party leadership and voted against the six-month CR because it did not make deep enough cuts, said he’s ready to face constituents back home. 

“It’s a conservative district, but it’s a pragmatic and reasonable district that understands you’re not going to get everything you want, but they’re ready to move on too,” the Michigan Republican said. “They’re ready to say, ‘OK, let’s stop talking about billions and start talking about trillions. Let’s start having that conversation.’” 

Huizenga also admitted it will be “tough” to defend his vote for the budget.

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