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There Are No Permanent Victories in Washington

The House’s freshmen lawmakers have spoken passionately about conservatism since their election in 2010. Their collective voting records, however, don't exactly match their reputation.Owing partly to the voting record of these freshmen, out of control spending and an ever-growing federal government remains the norm in Washington.


This can be in large part attributed to the rhetoric of both the left and the freshmen lawmakers themselves. Whether it comes from President Obama or Nancy Pelosi, Democrats love to blame anything and everything on new Tea Party, anti-government Congressmen. The Left often tries to sell the narrative that Tea Party extremists took over Congress in 2010 and have taken over the once proud GOP. This narrative is presumably aimed at marginalizing conservatives, so it’s convenient for Democrats.

The freshmen lawmakers take that same message of conservatism and run with it. They campaigned on limited government in 2010, and have continued to do so. Vocalizing the conservative message keeps these lawmakers in the good graces of the Tea Party and away from a primary fight. By and large, they portray themselves as political outsiders fighting against the Washington establishment. In short, the freshman Republican lawmakers drive their anti-establishment, small government narrative because it is convenient for them. But after viewing the voting record of these Congressmen, one can see that this narrative is entirely false.

Heritage Action for America (disclosure: my former employer) maintains a continually updated scorecard on their website that tracks every key vote made by members of Congress. This scorecard, based on conservative principles and not party allegiance, is the best tool to use for judging the voting record of a Congressman from a conservative perspective. The average Republican member of the House earns a 65% on the scorecard. The average freshman lawmaker earns a 67%. For every Jeff Duncan (98%) and Mick Mulvaney (96%) there is a Congressman going the other direction like Chris Gibson (38%) or Robert Dold (39%). Interestingly, some of the more recognizable and vocal lawmakers from this class have voting records that leave much to be desired. Allen West is a good example of this trend, only scoring 68%.




Heritage Action Communications Director Dan Holler had this to say about the freshmen class of Republican lawmakers:

“Much like many of their more experienced counterparts, some freshmen lawmakers are struggling with the inside-the-beltway desire to ‘get something done.’ All too often – especially with Harry Reid controlling the Senate and President Obama in the White House – that requires compromising their stated conservative principles. With each vote, freedom either advances or recedes and ultimately lawmakers must be able to justify their votes to their constituents.” 

Sadly, once these members of the freshman class got to Washington, they began to compromise on the promises that they made to voters during the campaign season. We saw it when many of these Congressmen voted for the largest debt ceiling increase in the country’s history. This was also true when the House recently passed a transportation bill that outpaces highway revenues by $16 billion and maintains government interference in student loans by setting an artificially lowered 3.4% interest rate on Stafford loans. In the near future, this group appears poised to vote for a big spending farm bill loaded with subsidies, a new entitlement program, and no real reform to the food stamp program.


The 2010 midterm elections should still be considered a victory for conservatives. But there are no permanent victories in Washington. Too many of the House Republican freshmen are failing conservatism. Unless conservative voters get involved, there’s no reason to expect their grades to go up.

This post was authored by editorial intern Kyle Bonnell.

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