- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The office nameplates are posted, key committee assignments doled out and the staff members are - more or less - in place. For the history-making class of freshmen who flipped the House from Democratic to Republican control, now comes the hard part: governing in opposition to a president intent on his own re-election.

Halfway through Barack Obama’s presidential term, the new Republican lawmakers causing the hubbub on Capitol Hill this week say they are focused on a mandate to cut government spending and debt, create jobs and roll back the Democrats’ signature health care overhaul. Less clear is how they would do that in a political culture that many of them derided on the campaign trail, against experienced but vanquished Democrats energized against any effort to undo their list of legislative accomplishments.

Some new Republican lawmakers debut from perches of outsized power, such as a trio of rookies selected to serve on the House committee that controls the federal purse strings. Others arrive in groups with expertise, such as the gaggle of doctors and one dentist who won their seats in part by campaigning against health care reform.

Despite the call for fresh faces on Capitol Hill, the new Republican majority includes political veterans, such as five former House members returning for service and a number of former congressional and White House aides.

There are Democrats in the freshman lineup, too - nine of them, who will be led by ousted Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California after she surrenders the gavel on Wednesday to Ohio Republican Rep. John A. Boehner.

“We put the car together, we’ve got the wheels on, we got the steering column in place,” said Rep.-elect Bill Huizenga, Michigan Republican, one of 85 freshmen Republicans to be sworn in Wednesday. “It’s time to start the engine and start the journey.”

It could be a bumpy ride for three House freshmen who were elected on a pledge to cut federal spending but drew assignments to the prestigious Appropriations Committee. That’s because the committee’s culture is all about spending money, not saving it or cutting back on spending.

“I’m sure there will be some frustrating moments for some of the new folks, but the will is there,” said Rep.-elect Kevin Yoder, Kansas Republican.

Mr. Yoder and Reps.-elect Alan Nunnelee of Mississippi and Steve Womack of Arkansas all arrive with experience doling out public dollars. Mr. Yoder and Mr. Nunnelee served as appropriations chairmen in their state legislatures, while Mr. Womack served as mayor of Rogers, Ark., for a dozen years.

Their appointments to the vaunted panel were the GOP’s acknowledgment of the voter anger and distrust against the sometimes self-preserving way members of Congress chose to spend federal dollars. Republicans also voted to extend a ban on “earmarks” that directed money toward home-state projects.

But the party also appointed a past “prince of pork,” Rep. Hal Rogers of Kentucky, to chair the panel after he disavowed earmarking.

With health care looming as a major partisan battleground again, the half-dozen new GOP doctor-representatives - all intent on rolling back Mr. Obama’s health care overhaul -are getting outsized attention.

Few groups can claim as much credibility on the issue, and they’ll have help. The new members already have met with the House’s Republican “doctors caucus” about the idea of overturning the overhaul, though talks have not progressed to much detail, participants said.

Mr. Obama has promised to veto a repeal if it reaches his desk. Even so, Republicans say they will try to starve the overhaul of funding and dismantle it piece by piece.

Short of a full repeal, it’s not yet clear that the group is united on which parts of the law to try to cancel.

“Nothing is concrete,” said Rep.-elect Paul Gosar, Arizona Republican and the only dentist in the newly elected group. “We need to sit down and orchestrate things and take a look at what our ideas should be.”

The other newly elected doctors are GOP Reps.-elect Joe Heck of Nevada, Nan Hayworth of New York, Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee, Larry Bucshon of Indiana and Andy Harris of Maryland.

Their opposition is likely to be fierce. Mrs. Pelosi cited the preservation of the health care law as a key reason she decided to stay in Congress even after Democrats lost their majority in the House. Senate Democrats remain in control of that chamber, though it’s unclear whether the crop of senators up for re-election in 2012 would accept or reject changes to the overhaul.

Many voters demanded fresh faces in Congress, but they got much the same leadership lineup at the top. And even in the freshman class, there are political veterans.

Five incoming GOP members are “phoenixes,” returnees to the halls in which they’ve served before.

They include Ohio Rep. Steve Chabot, a member of the “Republican revolution” of 1994 and a manager of President Clinton’s impeachment trial, who lost his seat in 2008 to Democrat Steve Driehaus, but won it back this year.

The others are Reps.-elect Tim Walberg of Michigan, Charlie Bass of New Hampshire, Michael Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania and Steve Pearce of New Mexico.

Others in the freshman class have years of Washington experience. Rep.-elect Jaime Herrera, Washington Republican, was a White House intern and later worked for Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers. And Michigan’s Mr. Huizenga worked for more than five years for former Rep. Pete Hoekstra.

For him and other experienced newcomers, Mr. Huizenga said, “This isn’t their first rodeo.”

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