As soon as I asked myself that question, I realized that it wasn't going to be quick or easy to figure out the answer, so I might as well get to work. 15% of the Republicans in the new House of Representatives taking office in January are new members. The states which are sending the most new Republicans to Congress are led by North Carolina, at four. Next are Indiana, Texas and California with three apiece. There are dozens of new Republicans in speaker Boehner's caucus. This invites speculation about whether a change in the composition of the caucus has happened and, if so, whither?
The only way I'm going to get a feel for whether these new members portend any trends in the newly elected Republican House Caucus is to look at these yahoos one at a time. I'm going to start with the one new Republican Congressman from my home state of Illinois, Rodney Davis in the Illinois 13th Congressional District. It turns out it's a pretty good story. Follow me out into the tall grass if you want to talk about it.
Some of these new members have been in Congress before, as the story of the IL-13 tells. To begin with, for the sake of any superstitious souls among us, as he represents the 13th district in the 113th Congress, I wish new Republican, Rodney Davis, ill fortune during his, hopefully, single term. He has not been to Congress before.
Rodney Davis is the sideshow, here, but for his being the whole point of looking into this at all. This is really the story of the demise of Judy Biggert, Congressional Tea Party Queen. Ms. Biggert was the incumbent in the IL-13 until redistricting caught up with her.
Illinois was one of the few places where Democrats used their advantage at the State Capitol to effectively redraw the Congressional map in favor of Democrats. Republicans have been doing this for years, all over the country, and only Republican gerrymandering in places like Texas and North Carolina accounts for the minority party's continued control in the House of Representatives. By contrast, in Illinois, Democrats have four new members against the lonely Mr. Davis. But I digress.
After redistricting, Ms. Biggert saw better fortunes in the IL-11 where she drew former Congressman, Bill Foster. one of those four new Illinois Democrats. That allowed Mr. Davis and Dr. David Gill to contest the newly drawn IL-13. Mr. Foster won the 11th CD, so, with Biggert out of the way in IL-13, will Rodney Davis make any difference?
Probably not, though he may be more supportive of federal infrastructure spending than his predecessor, Ms. Biggert. Here is something Mr. Davis said to the Chicago Tribune during the campaign:
Enact a long-range transportation bill which will stimulate job growth in sectors such as construction, materials and engineering. While I was pleased that Congress passed a two year extension this session, I believe we must give more certainty to this segment of our economy so these businesses can employ Americans for the long haul.It is worth remembering that the tea partiers in Congress wouldn't pass Speaker Boehner's own Transportation Bill, but Mr. Davis says he would support it. By contrast, Biggert was prone to voting against infrastructure spending, and then taking credit for what ever happened anyway. This raises the question of whether more moderate voices in the new Congress might strengthen Speaker Boehner politically by letting him actually get something done?
At this point there have to be more questions than answers about this.
I am going to look next at the three new Republicans sent to Congress by California. This could provide further insight into the way that blue state Republicans might behave in the upcoming 113th Congress.