The new Democratic majority in Washington say they will change things. That’s not news. Every time the leadership on Capitol Hill changes sides the newbies promise change. Will this crop of Congressional newcomers be any different? That depends on who you talk to.
Writes Robin Toner and Kate Zernike in The New York Times:
The newly elected Democratic class of 2006, which is set to descend on the Capitol next week, will hardly be the first freshmen to arrive in Washington promising to make a difference.
The last time Congress changed hands, the Republican freshman class of 1994 roared into town under the leadership of Newt Gingrich as speaker and quickly advanced a conservative agenda of exceptional ambition. Many in the class of 2006, especially those who delivered the new Democratic majorities by winning Republican seats, show little appetite for that kind of ideological crusade.
But in interviews with nearly half of them this week, the freshmen Ã¢â‚¬â€ 41 in the House and 9 in the Senate, including one independent Ã¢â‚¬â€ conveyed a keen sense of their own moment in history, and a distinct world view: they say they were given a rare opportunity by voters, many of them independents and Republicans, who were tired of the partisanship and gridlock in Washington.
Now, they say, they have to produce Ã¢â‚¬â€ to deal with long-festering problems like access to affordable health care and the loss of manufacturing jobs, and to find a bipartisan consensus for an exit strategy in Iraq, a source of continuing division not only between but also within the parties.
Many of them say they must also, somehow, find a way to address the growing anxiety among voters about a global economy that no longer seems to work for them.
There is a strong populist tinge to this class. In general, they set themselves an extraordinary (political veterans might say impossible) task: to avoid the ideological wars that have so dominated Congress in recent years, to be pragmatists, and to change the tone in Washington after a sharply partisan campaign.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I see myself, hopefully, as a bridge builder, a consensus person,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Harry Mitchell, 66, a longtime state senator and former mayor of Tempe, Ariz., who defeated Representative J. D. Hayworth, an emblematic member of the class of 1994. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be a rabid partisan Democrat and represent this district.Ã¢â‚¬Â