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Republicans tap two tea party winners for transition help

By JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS
November 9, 2010

Rep.-elect Tim Scott, R-S.C. is seen in his office in Charleston, S.C. House Republicans are tapping two newly elected congressman who drew tea party backing in their campaigns to help lead the party's transition to power. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, Scott, both won endorsements by Sarah Palin and support from tea party activists. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith, File)

To help lead the GOP‘s transition to power in the House, Republicans on Monday tapped two newly elected congressmen who drew tea party backing in their campaigns.

Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and Tim Scott of South Carolina, who won endorsements by Sarah Palin and support from tea party activists, are part of a 22-member team charged with crafting new rules and smoothing the GOP’s shift from minority to majority.

The team, led by Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon and headquartered in the basement of the Capitol, was to gather over Chinese food Monday evening in Republican leader John Boehner‘s office suite and meet again Tuesday.

The team includes several seasoned veterans and influential members: 15-term Rep. David Dreier of California, in line for his second stint as head of the powerful Rules Committee; Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, in line to head the Budget Committee; and Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas, the campaign committee chief.

Rep. Doc Hastings of Washington, one of a large crop of GOP lawmakers who came to Congress 16 years ago, the last time Republicans gained control of the House, is part of the group.

Two other freshmen, Cory Gardner of Colorado and Martha Roby of Alabama, are also on the roster.

Walden said he didn’t choose the team based on whether they had tea party backing, telling reporters last week that he wasn’t sure whether those he was recruiting were supported by the conservative-libertarian movement. “It’s a nice cross-section of our Republican conference,” he said of the group.

But it’s clear Republicans are aware that the grass-roots movement that helped propel them to big wins in last week’s elections will be an important part of their new House majority and bolstered Senate minority.

In a nod to the new blood, Boehner, R-Ohio, and Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., in line to be speaker and majority leader, told freshmen they would get “a larger voice” on major decisions next year. In a letter to the newly elected members, they said the class would get two posts — instead of the customary one — on the influential panel that hands out committee assignments, as well as a representative in the ranks of the House leadership.

The first-termers comprise “no ordinary freshman class, and this is no ordinary time for our nation,” Boehner and Cantor wrote.

Many of the newly elected Republicans are political novices, including a pizzeria owner and a gospel-singing farmer. All four first-termers on the transition team have some degree of experience in elected office; Scott and Gardner have been state legislators while Roby has served as a city councilwoman and Kinzinger on a county board.

Freshmen arrive on Capitol Hill for orientation next week, when Republicans and Democrats will also elect leaders.

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press

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