Tea Party to Washington: 'Pain Should Be Shared by Everyone'

Diane Sawyer interviews 10 freshmen lawmakers.

ByABC News
January 4, 2011, 8:59 PM

WASHINGTON, Jan. 5, 2011 -- Welcome to Washington

"Energized." "Determined." "Convicted." Those are the words a few incoming lawmakers used to describe their feelings on the eve of the 112th Congress as they prepare to take power in the House of Representatives.

In a "World News" Exclusive, eight newly elected representatives and two senators-elect sat down with Diane Sawyer to discuss their vision for the country and how they plan to follow through on the promises that propelled them into power in Washington.

Perhaps most noteworthy and despite wide agreement that a showdown is looming over tea partiers' willingness to authorize more debt, the freshmen members of Congress indicated that they can support a higher national debt limit -- if it's accompanied by an agreement to achieve a balanced budget.

It's the largest influx of new members of Congress in the House in nearly 20 years -- and it's mostly Republican. Eighty-five new Republicans will be sworn into the House today, joining just nine lonely Democrats. The journey that ended at the steps of the Capitol this week began many miles away and, for many, with no thought of entering public life. At least 35 of have never held elected office before.

"I think we need people from different walks of life," Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., told Sawyer. "We need people who have been outside government service."

But as they wander the halls of the Congressional buildings in search of the bathroom, cafeteria or the subway to the Capitol, these Tea Party newcomers maintain they know why they have come to Washington.

"What [the American people] want is for us to stand for the proposition that the federal government is too big and it's too expensive because it's trying to do too many things," Sen.-elect Mike Lee, R-Utah, told Sawyer.

Republicans have pledged to cut $100 billion in the first fiscal year that starts this fall. But the budget-cutting pledge will be put to the test even sooner than that, with Congress needing to approve a new spending bill by early March just to keep the government running.

"We will not spend more than we take in," Rep.-elect Frank Guinta, R-N.H., said. "Our families live by that rule."

"Adult Decisions"

Republicans, however, may be forced to spend more than they take in, once two big votes on the economy come up: The Continuing Resolution and the vote to raise the debt ceiling are likely to generate a political firestorm.

"This is going to be probably the first really big adult moment for the new Republican majority," Boehner told The New Yorker in a recent interview. "You can underline 'adult.' And for people who've never been in politics it's going to be one of those growing moments. It's going to be difficult, I'm certainly well aware of that. But we'll have to find a way to help educate members and help people understand the serious problem that would exist if we didn't do it."