Approaching their first 100 days in office, GOP congressional freshmen say they overwhelmingly believe they are influencing a spending transformation that is beginning to grip Congress and the federal government.
Pollster Frank Luntz, who assembled a focus group of the congressional newcomers Tuesday on Fox News’ “Hannity” show, asked whether the new members think their presence is changing Washington’s approach to spending and how they voted on the recent stopgap measure that kept the government from shutting down.
“I think it has, and I did vote against the CR [continuing resolution] because I'm blessed to represent a people who are prepared to reshape and resize government at a little quicker pace.” said South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy
. “But I can tell you this. I have respect for my colleagues in the freshmen class who cast a different vote. And I don't question their commitment to cutting one iota.”
Virginia Rep. Scott Rigell said he also voted against the most recent stopgap measure, because he didn’t view it as a sincere effort to curb the nation’s fiscal downturn.
“I didn't quite buy into the logic of taking it down to 61 billion from 100. So, as I saw it, we were at 39 percent of really where we need to be,” Rigell said, adding there is a sense of urgency this year in addressing the deficit.
Luntz asked for specifics on how things are changing in Congress.
“Well, the fact that we are no longer speaking about how much we are spending and what we are cutting,” said New York Rep. Michael Grimm. “But we have different tactics — and I respect my colleagues that have different tactics. But at the end of the day, our goals are exactly the same — and that's to dramatically reduce spending and get our fiscal house in order.”
Sean Hannity said while he respects the freshmen have changed the debate over spending, he wondered why the cuts in the last stopgap spending measure were so meager.
“We would have cut even more than 61 billion if we could. But we've got to deal with a Democratic-controlled Senate, we'll dealing with a Democrat president,” said Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger. “Ask [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid why it is extreme to cut just a small percentage of the government.”
Washington Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler said although they too were disappointed at the reduction in proposed cuts, “we've cut more than any Congress, four times more than any Congress since World War II — and we've been here for four months.
“It is a step. If we were saying we are stopping here by all means, [we would] be disappointed. But this is one step, and we are going to keep walking,” she said. “Baby, I voted for that cut — I'm proud of it — it was the right step. And we're going to keep putting one foot in front of the other until we get this fiscal house in order.”
Referring to Rep. Allen West as “the most serious member” of the freshmen class, Luntz asked the Florida congressman to what extent they are willing to go to foment change.
“I think that what you saw last week with a lot of the demagogue, emotional rhetoric, is that we are challenging people,” West said. “And you saw a lot of intellectual dishonesty out there and lack of integrity.
“So, I think that, if there's an opportunity for us to get the fiscal ship of state of United States of America back on track — if there's an opportunity to secure the future and the legacy of this republic — these 87 members that you sent up here to Washington, D.C. are going to be the vanguard which will make it happen.”
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