Analysis: Republican "Young Guns" make history, draw fire

WASHINGTON Tue Sep 6, 2011 4:15am EDT

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) (C) walks from the House chamber after voting on debt ceiling legislation at the Capitol in Washington August 1, 2011. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) (C) walks from the House chamber after voting on debt ceiling legislation at the Capitol in Washington August 1, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A year after declaring themselves "Young Guns" ready to clean up Washington, these budget-slashing Republicans are drawing more jeers than cheers -- and raising Democrats' hopes for next year's election.

Having rejected compromise and threatened government default, they and other Republicans have upset voters, who polls show are increasingly anxious about the economy and disgruntled with both political parties. Last month, Congress' approval rating slumped to its lowest level ever -- about 12 percent.

"Right now, voters hate everyone," said Steve Stivers, one of 62 first-term "Young Gun" Republicans in the House of Representatives. "People are frustrated. But I feel we are on the right track."

To be sure, Stivers and his colleagues have come a long way since three Republican Party leaders recruited them to run for office and released a book last September titled "Young Guns: A New Generation of Conservative Leaders."

Tapping into anti-Washington ire fanned by the Tea Party movement, they preached fiscal discipline and "common sense for the common good" in last year's election to help Republicans win the House from President Barack Obama's Democrats.

But since taking power in January, the "Young Guns" -- led by House Republican Leader Eric Cantor, House Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan -- have produced historic yet troubling results.

Determined to tame record U.S. debt, they kept their vow to slash government spending, reversing years of increases by both Republican and Democratic-led Congresses and presidents.

Yet in doing so, the "Young Guns" and other Republicans pushed the government to the brink of a shutdown earlier this year and a narrowly averted debt default last month.

This angered voters and unnerved Wall Street, leading to the first-ever downgrade of the United States' AAA credit rating by Standard & Poor's.

Republicans bucked public opinion by refusing to compromise and raise taxes on the wealthy as part of deficit reduction.

"They were very effective in Washington. But outside Washington they contributed to a dramatic decline in confidence in their institution," said Paul Light, a political science professor at New York University.

Republicans have also drawn complaints that they are focusing too much on shrinking government at the expense of creating jobs, a pressing concern among voters with the U.S. unemployment rate stuck at 9.1 percent.

Despite the Republicans' success in winning spending cuts, Tea Party supporters are still not happy. They wanted deeper cuts and oppose any hike in the U.S. debt limit, which caps the amount Washington can borrow to pay its bills.


"We got ripped off," said Mark Meckler of the Tea Party Patriots, one of the movement's biggest groups.

A Pew Research Poll last month showed the Republican Party's favorable rating at 34 percent, compared with 43 percent for the Democratic Party.

Those numbers have fueled Democrats' hopes of making gains in the House in next year's election when they will be scrambling to retain control of the Senate and the White House.

"While they might have started with great hype, the 'Young Guns' leadership has misfired over and over again," said Jesse Ferguson of the Democratic congressional campaign committee.

As things stand, Democrats are expected to pick up some House seats in 2012, but not the 24 needed to win back control of the 435-member chamber. House seats are up for election every two years.

Polls suggest a number of first-term Republicans are vulnerable because they hail from traditionally Democratic districts. Cantor, Ryan and McCarthy are seen as holding safe Republican seats.

"The 'Young Guns' look a lot older now, with good reason," said Larry Sabato, a political science professor at the University of Virginia. "They had a tough year."

Cantor had perhaps the toughest. He got deep spending cuts without any tax hikes, but he also became the face of Republican intransigence and a Democratic punching bag.

As the House Republicans' chief vote counter, McCarthy drew fire for failing to muster needed support on some key measures, including one plan by House Speaker John Boehner to raise the debt-limit in July.

Another lightning rod for voter unhappiness with the "Young Guns'" was their uncompromising quest for deep spending cuts as outlined in Ryan's 2012 budget plan, which proposed privatizing Medicare, a popular healthcare program for the elderly.

That was a key reason the Republicans lost a special election for a House seat in New York.

Still, Ryan gained the admiration of plenty of conservatives, including some who urged him to seek the Republican presidential nomination. He declined.

Bill Frenzel, a former Republican congressman who is now at the Washington-based Brookings Institution, hopes the "Young Guns" learn the art of political compromise

"It takes each one a little time to figure out how to do it," Frenzel said. "There's a learning curve."

(Editing by Christopher Wilson)

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Comments (24)
shelbyanne wrote:
Tea party republicans are nothing but criminals, perverting justice and hiding behind fanatical misinterpretations of the constitution, dictating their will on the people through force, threats, and other hostile acts, ignoring the constitutional powers of the president and punishing us for our party affiliations. They cost us money. They did it deliberately. It was totally needless. It was very high profile, everyone was watching the drama unfold. And it effected everyone in America. We all lost. What are the chances that the “young gun” congressional outlaws will be reelected in 2014? What chance has any republican have to be elected president? When the democrats retake the house the world will silently celebrate a sigh of relief. If the republicans keep attacking the president going into his second term, he will destroy them.

Sep 06, 2011 5:16am EDT  --  Report as abuse
McBob08 wrote:
It is a financial fact that you cannot “cut” your way out of a deficit (or a depression as it is now, thanks to the Teabaggers and the Republicans. The GOP is embracing lunacy and tactics that have always traditionally failed. Prosperity only comes when the taxes on the rich is much higher than it is now.

Republicans like to laud the economy of the man voted the Worst President in the 20th Century, Ronald Reagan, but fail to realize that was mostly due to wild speculation and the biggest tax increase in the history of America.

Sep 06, 2011 6:34am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Patriotic Americans are once again setting themselves up for disappointment by attempting to find a President in the current batch of RINO’s looking for a job. The “Tea Party” is based on noble ideas, but it is a discombobulated assortment of Patriots without either a leader or a definite direction. They are much like the 12 tribes of Israel before they were brought together by King David. And a “King David” is exactly what is needed for the “Tea Party” to become a significant player in restoring the Constitution to its place of highness. The “Tea Party” needs a fearless leader to bring the Patriots together; This person also needs to be someone who understands that Freedom is won, not God given; Someone who knows that the past 70 years of “sliding” towards socialism will not be corrected by anything less than major social “surgery”. This person needs to be someone who understands that in these times of social and economic troubles, the “Gordian Knot” is the only solution. Make no doubt that America is a Judeo-Christian nation. It was never intended to be a mixture of worldly religions. The power of America comes directly from this Judeo-Christian history. The Constitution makes it clear that the Congress will not establish a national religion, and it will not stop anyone from exercising their right to worship, or not to worship, as they might so find comforting. Failure to understand that a belief in a “Creator” is a necessary requirement for any ordered, and civil society, results in chaos, and a breakdown in unity in both thoughts and actions. A divided nation can not survive. Our current, misguided, leaders revel in the notion that diversity is social progress, and all the while turning a “blind eye” to the destruction this diversity has brought us, especially in the past 20 years. As a nation we can either “go back”, and reaffirm what our history has given us, or we can continue down the path of destruction given us by our educators and leaders who hold no merit for the classic, God given, characteristics of a “King David”.
Lord Howard Hurts

Sep 06, 2011 7:21am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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