The Freshman Class: Newly Elected Republicans Pledge 'No Compromise' as They Descend on Washington

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell Announces Major Reversal

ByZ. BYRON WOLF
November 15, 2010, 3:25 PM

Nov. 15, 2010 -- A pizza man, a lumberjack, a dentist and more -- a new generation of freshmen Tea Party Republican congressmen descended on Washington over the weekend. They won't be sworn in until January, but these new politicians scored a big victory in trying to limit the size and scope of government today.

The top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, signaled for the first time that he would support a ban on earmarks, the congressionally directed pet projects that have been equated with wasteful spending.

"I know the good that has come from the projects I have helped support throughout my state," said McConnell, acknowledging his new position on the subject. "I don't apologize for them. But there is simply no doubt that the abuse of this practice has caused Americans to view it as a symbol of the waste and the out-of-control spending that every Republican in Washington is determined to fight."

The refrain for Republicans anticipating their new majority was simple: "No compromises." It was repeated by Republican leaders across Capitol Hill on subjects that ranged from extending tax cuts for people making more than $250,000 to repealing the Health Reform Law that Democrats struggled to pass last March.

"No compromise" is what longtime Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., yelled to cheers at a rally in front of the Capitol building. And it's what congressman-elect Tim Scott, R-S.C., told ABC he would accept as he pursued the ideals that got him elected -- lower taxes and limited government.

The incoming class off freshman Republican senators and representatives -- more than 100 of them between the House and Senate -- who swept to power this month came by plane and train to look for housing and learn the ropes of being members of Congress.

ABC followed some of the new members to Washington. See that report HERE.

Read profiles of their campaigns HERE.

While they don't officially take office until January, their freshmen orientation to Capitol Hill begins this week, even as the Democrats they defeated return to town for must-pass bills such as the one to fund the federal government.

More than a third of them have never served in government, and as establishment Washington tries to determine how life will change, the newest crop of congressmen in a generation resembles a class of college freshmen as they scope out housing and attend lectures and receptions.

Boehner Counsels 'Humility'

The other top Republican in Congress, presumed House Speaker John Boehner, told new members to remember just one word: "humility."

"The American people are sick and tired of the Washington-knows-best mentality. "All the power in this town is on loan from the people. "Our constituents sent us here to do something -- to stop the expansion of the federal government at the expense of their freedom and their jobs. "It's not about us; it's about them."

The rhetoric was similar in 2006, when Democrats took control of the House from Republicans.

Then, incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democrats would "drain the swamp" and restore a more ethical Congress.

Four years later, the House Republican charged with managing the switch to a Republican majority used a different cleanup analogy.

"This place needs a full vacuuming. It needs to be cleaned out," Rep. Greg Walden said on the ABC political show "Top Line."

But first, new members will sit in on sessions where they'll learn about House and Senate procedures, ethics rules and their new government benefits. There are briefings upon briefings on such topics as Senate history, Senate rules, security and operations, life in the Senate and the Congressional Accountability Act.

Ramming home the importance of those sessions was the ethics trial of longtime New York Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel, charged with repeated violations of House rules.

McConnell welcomed newly elected GOP senators to his Capitol Office, telling reporters that the "outstanding" additions would result in "a huge improvement" on Capitol Hill.

"This is a little larger meeting than this day two years ago and four years ago," McConnell observed, sitting alongside a group of his colleagues-to-be, minus Pennsylvania's Pat Toomey. "After the '06 election, we had one Republican freshman senator. After the '08 election, we had two freshman Republican senators. Obviously, I'm pretty excited to be sitting here with 13 this year."

Defeated Dems Have to Vacate Offices and Cast a Few Crucial Votes

The old, ousted Democratic majority is on hand too. Not only will defeated representatives have to move out of their Capitol Hill offices, they'll also have to vote on bills to fund the federal government and decide whether Americans will see the Bush-era tax cuts expire at the end of this year.

For more on what needs to happen during the lame duck session to keep the government functioning, click HERE.

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