Tea Party Lawmakers Welcome Themselves To D.C. The newly elected politicians are coming to Washington, D.C., to get acquainted with the institution they will be joining -- an institution they criticized during the campaign. The Tea Party is even holding its own sessions this weekend -- before the official House orientation.
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Tea Party Lawmakers Welcome Themselves To D.C.

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Tea Party Lawmakers Welcome Themselves To D.C.

Tea Party Lawmakers Welcome Themselves To D.C.

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This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

We begin this hour with politics. The next U.S. Congress won't be sworn in until January. But this weekend, many members of the House are descending on Washington, D.C. Starting tomorrow, the House of Representatives holds its official orientation for newcomers. Even before that, the Tea Party movement is holding orientation sessions of its own. NPR's Don Gonyea reports on how the incoming class is already doing things differently.

DON GONYEA: The congressional Tea Party caucus is not new, having been formed this past summer.�But it's about to get a lot bigger. At least 40 of the newly elected Republicans had at least some help from the Tea Party movement along the way.

They come to town this weekend to get acquainted with the institution they'll be joining, the one they've all been very critical of in the campaign. And for that reason, they're telling local and national news reporters they're not looking to blend in.

Jim Renacci of Ohio's 16th District spoke to NPR's TALK OF THE NATION.

Representative-Elect JIM RENACCI (Republican, Ohio): When the Republicans had control, they did some things that people are unhappy with. And then the Democrats took control, and they did some things even worse that people are not happy with. I think we need to start looking at our future...

GONYEA: And here's Dan Webster of Orlando on Fox News.

Representative-Elect DANIEL WEBSTER (Republican, Florida): Well, I say this. I don't want to go to Washington to change places with the Democrats. I don't want the process to be the same as it was. I don't want...

GONYEA: And one who's already been identified as a rising star within the ranks of the newly elected GOP - Kristi Noem appearing on CNN.

Representative-Elect KRISTI NOEM (Republican, South Dakota): Here in South Dakota I had a lot of Tea Party support. I think the message that I carried of smaller, limited government, less spending, really resonated with them. And it was something we could agree on. So you know, I certainly think that that is something that's going to be a factor.

GONYEA: Now, no one knows how much of a factor it will be or what kind of staying power the movement will have.�But groups associated with the Tea Party movement are holding their own orientation sessions for new members, including the Tea Party Patriots, this weekend in Washington. Mark Meckler a cofounder of the group. He says they want to support these new members. But he has words of caution as well.�

Mr. MARK MECKLER (Tea Party Patriots): We're here to provide the political capital and to support them if they stand for the things they stood for during the election. The second message this is that if they don't, we can be back in two years and find a new crop who will.�

GONYEA: OK. So this is like is this like an orientation before the orientation? Is that how you...

Mr. MECKLER: I think that's a great way to put it. And in a way it's an inoculation.

The goal is to make sure that the freshmen do two things. One is that they understand what they're about to face. That they know that they're going to face a pressure machine unlike anything they've ever experienced before. They're going to be told they need to go along to get along.

GONYEA: And the other goal besides the inoculation Meckler mentioned?

Rep. MECKLER: To give them the tools to fight back. To teach them what they have as far as leverage and power once they get into Congress.

GONYEA: Much has been made about the role the Tea Party played in the midterms. But Duke University political scientist David Rohde also cautions that there've been big swings in Congress in the past and new movements pledging to do things differently.�

Professor DAVID ROHDE (Duke University): To be sure about how different these people are, we're going to have to observe them in action, not just listening to some of the rhetoric. We're going to learn things as things go on. I've heard a whole lot of grandiose claims about this. And I just think it's really hard to know for sure.

GONYEA: Rohde remembers the big classes of freshmen in the past - post-Watergate Democrats in 1974, Contract with America Republicans 20 years later, all convinced they would change everything. Yet every so many years there comes a new wave, just as sure that everything still needs to change.

Don Gonyea, NPR News, Washington.��

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