Freshmen D.C. Lawmakers Hold Major Clout

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When a freshman congressman goes to Washington, D.C., he or she is usually at the bottom of the totem pole. However, with more than 100 new lawmakers on Capitol Hill, this freshman class holds a lot of clout, especially those who were backed by the Tea Party.

When it comes to spending, these lawmakers are showing their true allegiance is principle, not a political party.

When Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, became the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, he assumed responsibility of managing the House, dominated by Republicans -- along with dozens of new lawmakers swept into office by Tea Party support.

Yet, last week, Boehner narrowly avoided a government shutdown when 54 House Republicans defied party leadership by voting against a continuing resolution to fund the government.

"Yes, we've got some members who think we should do more," Boehner said.

"Whether it's defending life, defunding Planned Parenthood, stopping Obamacare, or rolling back out of control regulations by various agencies -- we had all kinds of amendments and those are not part of this CR," said Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan. "So, on one hand, funding the government for three more months, essentially means we continue to fund Obamacare, we continue to fund Planned Parenthood and we continue to fund these regulations that are killing job-creators in this country."

Huelskamp views spending and the federal debt as a moral issue. He believes the government no longer reflects society's values and wants to use the congressional power of the purse strings to make sure it does.

As an example, he pointed to the Defense of Marriage Act.

"The administration refuses to defend our Traditional Marriage Act, and we should be defunding the Justice Department if they're not willing to defend our laws," Huelskamp said.

Huelskamp is not alone.

"This is immoral," said Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah. "It's unwise, and it ought to be illegal."

Lee is an avowed Tea Party Republican in the U.S. Senate who helped form the Tea Party caucus which is also applying pressure on GOP leaders.

"The important thing is that we have some group within the Senate that's there standing ready and eager to listen to people who are identifying themselves as party of the Tea Party movement," Lee said.

Both men said their goals are the same as the GOP's, but where they differ is on tactics.

On the budget, they believe it's time to dig in and fight. They also said they're willing to compromise so long as the tradeoffs include concessions, including passing a balanced budget amendment.

The White House has warned all parties involved to remember not everyone is going to receive everything they ask for.

"No one will get 100 percent of what they want," said Jay Carney, White House press secretary. "I will stipulate that right here."

Veteran lawmakers said these newcomers have a loud voice.

"You bet we're listening to this new class that's come in," said Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind. "It's a talented group, but in a very real sense they represent the voice of the American people on Capitol Hill and that voice has to be heeded."

"I think our leadership in the House has been unprecedented in how they reach out to freshmen," Huelskamp told CBN News. "Leadership is a tough job. Every member up here is elected for a particular district, and none of us work for any particular leader, but the leader is actually trying to work for us."

If party leaders think it's hard keeping their members in line now, it may not get any easier.

Conservative lawmakers said the Tea Party movement isn't a passing fad, but a phenomenon that's here to stay.

"I believe 2010 was just a prelude to a bigger set of changes we'll see in 2012," Lee said.

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John Jessup

John Jessup

CBN News Anchor

John Jessup serves as the main news anchor for CBN, a position he assumed after 10 years reporting for the network in Washington, D.C. His work in broadcast news has earned him several awards in reporting, producing, and coordinating elections coverage. Follow John on Twitter @JohnCBNNews and "like" him at