- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Georgia Rep. Tom Graves, who is emerging as one of the leaders of the huge contingent of freshmen Republicans in the House, said his fellow budget hawks in the Class of 2010 are just getting started.

“This is the kickoff in a long season of spending cuts,” Mr. Graves said Tuesday on The Washington Times-affiliated “America’s Morning News” radio program.

The 41-year-old lawmaker got a six-month head start on most of his classmates by winning a special election last summer for the seat vacated by then-Rep. Nathan Deal, now the Republican governor of Georgia.

When the freshmen, who had campaigned on promises to fix the federal budget crisis, became frustrated in February, Mr. Graves helped organize a coalition of fiscal hard-liners who insisted the GOP House leadership honor its own Pledge to America agenda: $100 billion in immediate spending cuts for the current fiscal year.

Mr. Graves said the freshmen aren’t backing down.

“I know the House is going to stand strong. What’s awesome about this freshman class is that they’re focused on the next generation and not the next election. They’re willing to put up the tough votes because that’s what it’s going to take,” he said. “It’s going to take courage, which clearly the Senate is showing a lack of.”

He brushed aside concerns that a government shutdown could hurt Republicans politically.

“The Democrats clearly want to put that out: ‘Hey, this is really about a government shutdown,’” he told hosts John McCaslin and Amy Holmes. “But they’re the only ones talking about that, along with some of the other media.

“We’re for cutting spending and reducing the size of government, not for shutting the government down,” he said. “I didn’t go to Washington to vote ‘no.’ I went to Washington to make a difference and save our nation from the fiscal cliff that is clearly ahead of us.”

Mr. Graves added: “It’s apparent that Senate Democrats have forgotten the message from last November. The equivalent of what they want to do right now is tie a brick to the accelerator and run it right off the cliff.”

Mr. Graves, who developed a reputation as a budget hawk while serving in the Georgia Statehouse from 2003 to 2010, has said he will make fiscal responsibility his signature issue as a congressman. Since taking office, he’s earned a spot on the influential House Appropriations Committee and is a member of the House Tea Party Caucus.