By Russell Berman - 08/30/11 09:00 AM EDT
House Republicans will showcase members of their powerful freshman class in pursuing a jobs agenda this fall, giving a boost to several lawmakers who could face tough reelection battles next year.
Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) detailed the GOP’s plans in a memo to lawmakers on Monday, singling out four first-term Republicans who will see their legislation brought to the floor by the end of the year.
Spotlighting the freshman class is a recognition both of its influence and its vulnerability — the 87 new Republicans have steered the House conference to the right, but with the economy teetering, a lack of concrete achievements could leave first-term members at risk with impatient voters back home.
“Once again the leadership of our conference is including freshmen in an integral way,” said Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), a freshman representative on the leadership team. “For that we give them high marks.”
The schedule that Cantor detailed includes a Scott bill that aims to counteract a ruling by the National Labor Relations Board against Boeing for shifting a plant to South Carolina from Washington state. The legislation would prevent the NLRB from restricting where a company can create jobs in the U.S.
“The salient point is that when American jobs are at risk, the last thing we need to do is create a state-by-state war,” Scott said.
Cantor’s memo also highlights legislation by GOP Reps. Morgan Griffith (Va.), David McKinley (W.Va.) and Kristi Noem (S.D.), who all won tight races last year and are battling for reelection. Two measures by fifth-term Rep. John Sullivan (Okla.) are featured as well.
“This is an age-old strategy,” said David Wasserman, House editor for the Cook Political Report. “Often first-term lawmakers don’t have as much leverage to impact legislation. This is an easy way for Republicans to spread the credit to newer members who may need some political reinforcement.”
But, Wasserman, added: “It didn’t work for Democrats in 2010.”
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Facing a political headwind, Democrats sought to highlight the work of their most vulnerable members last year, but the party was decimated at the polls anyway.
Republicans are hoping that proposals to reduce regulation will resonate more clearly with voters concerned about job creation. While the GOP has claimed victories battling congressional Democrats and the White House over spending, polls show that congressional Republicans have not won over a voting public that is broadly dissatisfied with Congress.
McKinley, who won an open seat by fewer than 1,400 votes last year, touted Cantor’s announcement that his bill streamlining coal regulation would be on the GOP fall agenda. “My bill attracted a strong showing of bipartisan support in the Energy and Commerce Committee this past July, and I am thankful that leaders in Congress have identified it as a vehicle for job growth in West Virginia and the entire country,” McKinley said in a statement distributed to local press outlets.
An even tougher challenge for House Republicans will be getting their legislation enacted into law. Senate Democrats are likely to oppose efforts to rein in environmental regulations and the NLRB, potentially forcing the GOP to insist that they be added to spending bills or included in the package recommended by the supercommittee on deficit reduction.
“The first step is getting it out of the House,” Scott said. But, he added: “You use every remedy available.”
The South Carolina lawmaker said he didn’t think it was the leadership’s objective to aid vulnerable Republicans, but he acknowledged that highlighting freshmen legislation would be helpful to members seeking reelection.
“It’s great timing on their behalf,” Scott said.