Congressional Silver Lining: 17 Reasons to Celebrate

While majorities may be won and lost at the margins, both parties are shaped by the Members who hold their most solid seats. Although the obvious story of election night is liberal gains in both chambers of Congress, a deeper look at the results indicates that conservative Republicans have 17 good reasons to celebrate, as well. The vast majority of this year’s class of Congressional freshmen ran on solid conservative platforms; with the returning Members of the House Republican Study Committee, they will form a clear majority of Republicans in the 111th Congress.

Of the 20 new Republicans elected last night, at least 17 have proven track records and positions on the issues that mark them as likely Members of the Republican Study Committee. These conservative newcomers will help to offset the loss of conservative stalwarts like Tom Feeney (Fla.), Marilyn Musgrave (Colo.), Steve Chabot (Ohio), Virgil Goode and Thelma Drake (Va.), Bill Sali (Idaho) and Tim Walberg (Mich.).

In fact, the conservative House Republican Study Committee will not only boast its largest membership ever in the 111th Congress, it will also represent a proportionately larger segment of the Republican conference in the next Congress. Membership is expected to stand at more than 100 conservative Members of Congress, and we need them to take an active role in standing up to the liberal agenda they will soon face.

As in 2006, voters responded to clear choices between conservative Republican candidates and liberal Democrats by selecting the candidates who ran on promises of increased fiscal responsibility, commitments to national security and the need for increased transparency. In doing so, they elected Republicans whose conservative values will shape the Republican minority’s response to the liberal Democrats’ agenda for the next two years.

Rather than lamenting losses by candidates who sought to blur the line between Republicans and Democrats, conservatives can point to wins in a number of key House districts that suggest an increasingly firm stand against business as usual.

Tom McClintock’s win in California’s 4th Congressional District went down to the wire (with only 416 votes separating the candidates, this one is going to go to a recount), but his reputation as a rock-solid conservative helped him to carry the day. He is known for his passionate defense of issues such as energy independence and ‘fiscal sanity,’ and his tenacity is truly impressive. McClintock will waste no time making a name for himself as a conservative voice in the 111th Congress.

Duncan D. Hunter’s name isn’t the only thing that will be familiar about the newly-elected representative from California’s 52nd District. Like his father before him, Hunter represents a solid conservative voice with a firm grasp of the issues affecting our armed services; Hunter’s campaign was run by his wife and friends while he finished a tour of duty with the Marine Corps Reserve in Afghanistan in late 2007. Hunter will focus on issues of national security (including border security) and market-based solutions to healthcare issues.

Mike Coffman has already served Colorado as a State Representative, State Senator, State Treasurer and Secretary of State, and now he’ll succeed Congressman Tom Tancredo in representing Colorado’s 6th Congressional District. His reputation of sound fiscal management and his commitment to energy independence through increased domestic production mark him as a leading conservative voice in the next Congress.

Bill Posey will carry on Dave Weldon’s legacy of rock-solid, principled conservatism in Florida’s 15th Congressional District. His track record in the Florida State Legislature and his call for increased accountability in Washington carry the weight of his “Activity Based Total Accountability” booklet — a road map for those who seek to restore standards in government.

Tom Rooney’s win over Tim Mahoney in Florida’s 16th Congressional District marks a double win for conservatives — moving the seat back into Republican control and shifting it further to the right than it had been under Mahoney’s predecessor, Mark Foley. Rooney’s Army background and his focus on issues including addressing illegal immigration and reforming the Veterans’ Administration make him someone to watch among incoming conservatives.

Aaron Schock, who will succeed Ray LaHood in Illinois’ 18th Congressional District, will be the youngest Member of Congress upon taking office. He has been described as having “fresh thinking grounded by tried and true conservative values,” and he was the primary sponsor of concealed-handgun legislation in Illinois. He may become one of the new faces of conservative leadership in Congress.

Brett Guthrie will bring his experience as a Kentucky State Senator to Washington as he follows Congressman Ron Lewis in Kentucky’s 2nd District. As a graduate of West Point, Guthrie is committed to supporting our generals in the field as they fight and win the war on terror. Here at home, he’s eager to fight for fiscal discipline and decreased taxes.

Dr. Bill Cassidy succeeded in taking back Louisiana’s 6th Congressional District, one of three seats won by Democrats in special elections earlier this year. A physician and state senator, Cassidy has a well-documented record as a leader on tax reform and pro-family legislation. His conservative credentials also earned him the endorsement of Woody Jenkins, who sought this seat in the special election.

Erik Paulsen is a self-described “Tim Pawlenty Republican” whose election to Minnesota’s 3rd District represents a shift to the right for this Republican seat. Paulsen has expressed support for a Defense of Marriage Amendment, and he is a fervent advocate of economic growth through fiscal restraint and balanced budgets.

Blaine Luetkemeyer’s tenure in the Missouri House of Representatives gives a clear idea of the kind of leadership that he will bring to Congress from the state’s 9th Congressional District. He was a cosponsor of the state’s wildly popular Sanctity of Marriage Amendment, and he points to his consistently high ratings on issues of Second Amendment rights and his efforts to rein in wasteful spending as highlights of his legislative career. His staunch defense of life and his opposition to embryonic stem-cell research has made him a frequent target of liberals.

Gregg Harper has focused on border security and the preservation of family values in his campaign to represent Mississippi’s 3rd Congressional District. He’s been active in Republican politics for decades and served as a Republican Overseer in the 2000 recounts in West Palm Beach, Florida. This is a new conservative Member whose voice will be heard quickly.

Steve Austria was proud to be one of the few members of the Ohio State Senate to vote against the most recent gas tax increase, and he is an advocate for common-sense conservative approaches to tort reform, ethical oversight, and a host of other issues. He is succeeding Congressman David Hobson in Ohio’s 7th Congressional District.

Glenn Thompson, the Republican nominee in Pennsylvania’s 5th Congressional District, views his role in Congress “as a calling to serve the needs of all residents.” He is committed to reforming Congress, openly criticizing the bailout package and supporting tax cuts to help revive the economy. He embodies the principles of the “citizen legislator” envisioned by our Founding Fathers.

Dr. Phil Roe, who unseated fellow conservative Congressman David Davis in Tennessee’s 1st District, criticizes over-regulation and litigation as the chief impediments to affordable health care, rejecting liberal calls for a universal system that would increase burdens even further. He’ll also fight to simplify our overly complicated tax system.

Pete Olson successfully returned Texas’ 22nd District (the seat formerly held by Congressman Tom DeLay) to Republican control last night, scoring a decisive win over current Congressman Nick Lampson. He enlisted in the Navy the day he passed the Texas bar, choosing to serve his country and setting himself on a path that would include working for Senator Phil Gramm and serving as Senator John Cornyn’s Chief of Staff. Olson’s focus on national security, illegal immigration and the simplification of the tax code shows that he has learned plenty from his conservative mentors.

Jason Chaffetz, the winner over Congressman Chris Cannon in Utah’s 3rd Congressional District, is a Constitutionalist who wants to see increased accountability in federal programs. His comprehensive immigration strategy calls for enforcement of existing laws, improvements to the legal immigration system and a lockdown of our “porous” borders while rejecting calls for amnesty.

Cynthia Lummis will have no problem succeeding Congresswoman Barbara Cubin as the representative of Wyoming’s At-Large Congressional District. As State Treasurer, Lummis secured tax savings of $1000 per year for Wyoming families while growing the state’s investment account. Her calls for energy independence and her commitment to the defense of the 2nd Amendment stands her in good stead with her constituents, and they will make hers a welcome voice in Washington.

Forget about polar bears; here in Washington, the elephant is the real threatened species. Thankfully, the House Republican Study Committee remains a refuge where principled conservatives can meet to discuss the pressing issues of the day and formulate responses that reflect the true spirit of the Republican Party. Free from RINOs, PUMAs and the other assorted creatures that make up the Hill menagerie, the Republican Study Committee represents the best hope for Republicans to regain their bearings and move forward as an effective minority in the 111th Congress.

With the vast majority of newly-elected Republicans self-identifying as Study Committee-style conservatives for the second election in a row, we’re definitely on the right track.