That declaration forms the title of a new book by author Robert Draper, who spent 2011 practically embedded with a half dozen of the members of the tea-party-infused House GOP freshman class, a group that started 87 strong and added two members through special elections last year. The book tracks the freshmen and their incredible clout, becoming a force that prompted veteran lawmakers such as House Speaker John A. Boehner to bend to their will.
In the process a new “days of faction” emerged as Congress and President Obama became paralyzed amid partisan gridlock, sending congressional approval ratings to all-time lows. Here are a few moments the book uncovered to demonstrate the impact that the freshmen have, so far, had on the 112th Congress:
— On Dec. 30, 2010, Allen West took off from his home in Plantation, Fla., in a U-Haul and drove to Washington. A former Army lieutenant colonel — discharged after a controversial interrogation of an Iraqi insurgent — West spent four days before his swearing-in wandering the halls and basement corridors of the Capitol complex trying to learn every inch of his new command post. His first big public action was to send a letter to House Majority Leader Eric I. Cantor (R-Va.) telling him the new floor schedule was soft: “We start off being in session only 10 days the entire month of January?”
— Summing up the attitude of many freshmen, Rep. Billy Long (R-Mo.), a former auctioneer, reportedly told lobbyists early last year that party elders such as Boehner and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a former House leader, should not be trusted. “John Boehner and Roy Blunt are what’s wrong with Washington,” he said. Bret Funk, Long’s spokesman, said Sunday: “Rep. Long denies this incident ever took place and has nothing but the utmost respect for both Speaker Boehner and Senator Blunt.”
— After the freshmen rebelled against a spending bill, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) met with senior members of the Appropriations Committee in early February 2011 to inform them they had to rewrite the bill to appease the freshmen. The lawmakers asked McCarthy if he had done a formal “whip check,” a vote count, but he simply declared, “It won’t pass.” The appropriators angrily rewrote the bill, a process they repeated again last September after many freshmen opposed another spending bill. The senior lawmakers pleaded with McCarthy and Boehner to punish the recalcitrants. “It’ll just make martyrs out of them,” Boehner declared, saying only positive encouragement could work.