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Meehan Finds Not a Moment to Waste

Tom Williams/Roll Call

He captured one of three freshman seats on the Republican Steering Committee, the panel that oversees committee chairmanships and assignments. Fellow freshman Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.), who became friends with Meehan during orientation, was among those pleasantly surprised by his colleague’s ascension.

“There’s a lot of different leaders in the freshman class. We have some official leaders, who are doing a great job. And we have some behind-the-scenes leaders,” says Hultgren, who begins many days with Meehan in the Rayburn House Office Building gym. “I see [Meehan] behind the scenes always checking in with people ­— he has a great memory of what my interests are. ... He continues to be a leader, a voice people respect when he speaks.”

Meehan acknowledges that his role on the Steering Committee elevated his status and brought him closer to both freshman and senior Members.

“We had an objective, which was to maximize the representation of the freshman class,” he says, adding that the committee freshmen tried to “speak with one voice” to boost their influence. “People don’t even know your name, and you’re getting called by chairmen or potential chairmen saying they want to come down and see you.”

Just don’t expect Meehan to speak too highly of his role.

“I think there are remarkable people in this class,” he says. “I have gotten the ability to see how many people bring different experiences to the table. So I don’t think that anybody is the leader of the class.”

At best, he says, certain freshmen can become trusted voices in key areas. He is trying to fill that role on homeland security and terrorism issues. GOP leaders have noticed. Perhaps that’s why Meehan is one of just 15 freshmen who was granted a subcommittee chairmanship.

‘Hitting the Ground Running’

Arriving two minutes early may have paid off.

Meehan waits an hour and 20 minutes for his turn to speak, becoming the 10th Member allowed to address the Homeland Security Committee’s featured guest.

He tells Napolitano that he became a U.S. attorney just five days after the 9/11 attacks.

“I think the greatest marker of what we’ve done right is the incredible record of safety in the American homeland in that 10-year period. But we’ve also spent a lot of money,” he says, pushing her to explain whether taxpayer dollars are being spent effectively.

Government spending was at the heart of the elections, but on this day, Meehan is the first panel member to mention it.

On March 2, Meehan will have a different focus, holding the gavel for the first hearing of his Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence.

“He is hitting the ground running,” Homeland Security Chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.) says. “Pat may be a freshman Member of Congress, but due to his experience as a U.S. attorney, he fully understands the terrorist threat to our homeland.”

Eye on 2012

Long after the hearing is over, in a sparsely decorated fifth-floor Cannon office, Meehan reflects on his first weeks in one of the world’s most powerful political institutions.

He downplays early conflicts between GOP freshmen and Republican leadership, suggesting a dust-up over the USA PATRIOT Act was “a small speed bump, if even that.” (He sided with leadership.)

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