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Freshmen Are Central in GOP Budget Strategy

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House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has been the face of the GOP’s spending and debt efforts, but several freshmen are working closely with the leadership team to craft policies.

Although specific spending proposals won’t be unveiled until next month when the House starts debate on the continuing resolution, last week’s budget resolution debate provides a glimpse of the process.

Leadership originally wanted to set spending levels for the CR at 2008 levels and allow them to be prorated for the remaining part of the fiscal year. But most freshmen had campaigned with a specific call for a $100 million cut to spending, which would be unlikely under the 2008 cut levels. Additionally, the Republican Study Committee — which has also been working with freshmen — was pushing for language setting the cuts at 2006 levels.

In the end, leadership settled on language calling for cuts at 2008 levels or below. “The ’08 or lower came from the listening sessions,” Duffy said Friday.

Aides and lawmakers said the freshman class’s ability to have an influence on the process is partly a result of its size. Representing a third of the GOP in the House gives them an enormous voting bloc, particularly early in the 112th Congress when they are all still defined mostly by their lack of experience.

“We’re a very strong team,” Rep. Jeff Denham said Friday. The California Republican said that very early on, “leadership recognized that this freshman class is working very strongly together.”

Denham also noted that despite having 89 members in the class, “we’re very together” on the need to make significant spending cuts. Not only do they espouse support for spending cuts generally, but they are willing to push those cuts even in their own districts, he said.

“These freshmen didn’t run for one little thing in their district,” McCarthy said.

Republicans also said putting freshmen in influential roles is part of Boehner’s broader leadership style, which is much less top-down than previous Speakers.

“Speaker Boehner’s leadership style is based on the idea that all House Republicans are part of a team, and there is a place for everyone to contribute. The team finds consensus on shared goals and moves toward them. He is the coach — he expects the quarterback and the linemen and everyone else do their jobs,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said.

Regardless of how they have gotten into the center of the fight, the freshmen say they are grateful for the chance. “I came here to do a job. I didn’t come here to sit on the bench,” Grimm said.

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