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Dem wins leave behind a more conservative GOP conference

Tuesday’s blue wave in the House is set to leave behind a GOP conference that is far more conservative — and more loyal to President TrumpDonald John TrumpUSAID administrator tests positive for COVID-19 Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year DOJ appeals ruling preventing it from replacing Trump in E. Jean Carroll defamation lawsuit MORE.

A large chunk of centrist Republicans were either wiped out at the polls on Tuesday or are planning to retire at the end of this Congress, while the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus is actually expected to expand its ranks next year.

That means that when Republicans assume their new role in the minority, the GOP will largely be unified as they rally against the Democratic agenda and defend Trump from an onslaught of investigations and hearings.

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“We’re gonna have a lot of House members Grahamified,” said an aide to a conservative lawmaker, referring to Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamClyburn: Biden falling short on naming Black figures to top posts Feinstein departure from top post sets stage for Judiciary fight Spokesperson says Tennessee Democrat made 'poor analogy' in saying South Carolina voters have extra chromosome MORE (R-S.C.). “He was decidedly anti-Trump, but then Democrats crossed the threshold of what was responsible and reasonable.”

Now, Graham is one of Trump’s top allies on Capitol Hill.

“You’re going to see the Graham effect,” the aide predicted.

House Democrats seized back control of the House on Tuesday by flipping a large number of seats held by moderate Republicans, including Mike CoffmanMichael (Mike) Howard CoffmanColorado governor says he was not exposed to COVID-19 after Aurora mayor tests positive Colorado mayor says he called protesters 'domestic terrorists' out of 'frustration' Colorado governor directs officials to reexamine death of Elijah McClain in police custody MORE of Colorado, Leonard LanceLeonard LanceThomas Kean wins GOP primary to take on Rep. Tom Malinowski Gun debate to shape 2020 races GOP fears Trump backlash in suburbs MORE of New Jersey and Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloHouse Hispanic Republicans welcome four new members House adjusts format for dinner with new members after criticism Former GOP congressman calls for Biden to receive presidential briefings MORE of Florida.

And the GOP’s most prominent and outspoken centrist voices — including Reps. Ryan CostelloRyan Anthony CostellloBottom Line Trump struggles to stay on script, frustrating GOP again Bottom line MORE (Pa.) and Ileana Ros-LehtinenIleana Carmen Ros-LehtinenHouse Hispanic Republicans welcome four new members The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by UAE - US records 1 million COVID-19 cases in a week; governors crack down Trump-backed Republican unseats Shalala in Miami House race MORE (Fla.) and former Rep. Charlie DentCharles (Charlie) Wieder DentThe magnificent moderation of Susan Collins The Hill's Morning Report - ObamaCare front and center; transition standoff continues Republicans who could serve in a Biden government MORE (Pa.) — decided to head for the exits instead of face tough reelection battles in their swing districts.

“The Republican herd has been culled. And the culling was the more moderate members,” said the GOP aide. “The center of gravity in the conference has moved to the right.”

Meanwhile, a new crop of conservatives won election, including Chip Roy, whom Politico once described as the “next Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzO'Brien on 2024 talk: 'There's all kinds of speculation out there' Ocasio-Cortez, Cruz trade jabs over COVID-19 relief: People 'going hungry as you tweet from' vacation McSally, staff asked to break up maskless photo op inside Capitol MORE” (R-Texas); Denver Riggleman, a Trump-endorsed businessman in Virginia; Mark Green, who ran on a small government platform in Tennessee; and Ron Wright, who will replace retiring Freedom Caucus member Joe BartonJoe Linus BartonBiden's gain is Democratic baseball's loss with Cedric Richmond Bottom line Lobbying world MORE (R-Texas).

The Freedom Caucus, a band of roughly 30 hard-liners, lost two of its members Tuesday, but is still expecting to net upwards of five members in the new Congress.

And with a slimmer caucus, that means the group — which has torpedoed GOP-backed bills to get what they want — will make up a larger percentage of the overall conference.

But, as a source close to the caucus pointed out, all Republicans will end up using similar obstructionist tactics once they are no longer in power.

“Everybody acts like the Freedom Caucus when you’re in the minority,” the source said.

Several Capitol Hill sources predicted that the GOP conference, where infighting between competing factions has spilled into public view for years, would band together against the Democrats’ priorities. And some of the ideas supported by the left will give Republicans plenty to dislike, from Medicare for All to a $15 minimum wage.

The biggest points of contention among House Republicans have stemmed from when they have actually tried to put pen to paper on certain issues, such as repealing and replacing ObamaCare — something the GOP campaigned on for years. The health-care debate illustrated that it’s far easier to be against an idea than come up with actual policy solutions that everyone can agree on. 

“Republicans were more united when they were on defense then when they were on offense,” said Rep. Warren DavidsonWarren Earl DavidsonHillicon Valley: House votes to condemn QAnon | Americans worried about foreign election interference | DHS confirms request to tap protester phones House approves measure condemning QAnon, but 17 Republicans vote against it Hillicon Valley: Subpoenas for Facebook, Google and Twitter on the cards | Wray rebuffs mail-in voting conspiracies | Reps. raise mass surveillance concerns MORE (R-Ohio), a member of the Freedom Caucus, referring to the last time the GOP was in the minority. “That’s just the challenge of offense. I’m sure Democrats will deal with that.”

Since winning back the House, Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGovernors take heat for violating their own coronavirus restrictions Spending deal clears obstacle in shutdown fight Ocasio-Cortez, Cruz trade jabs over COVID-19 relief: People 'going hungry as you tweet from' vacation MORE (D-Calif.) outlined several areas of common ground where she hopes to work with Trump and Republicans next year, including an infrastructure package and lowering prescription drug prices.

But a more conservative GOP caucus may be more inclined to throw bombs than cut deals, not making life any easier for the Democrats who hope to notch some bipartisan legislative wins ahead of 2020.

Davidson, however, noted that some Republicans may be willing to work across the aisle on certain issues, especially if Trump is leading the push.

“There may be coalitions where some Republicans will work with Democrats,” Davidson said. “But it’s issue by issue.”

Democrats are itching to use their new subpoena powers to investigate the Trump administration, including scrutinizing the recent ouster of Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsAlabama zeroes in on Richard Shelby's future Tuberville incorrectly says Gore was president-elect in 2000 Next attorney general must embrace marijuana law reforms MORE and getting their hands on Trump’s tax returns and bank records.

“That will unite a lot of people in opposition to their actions, if that’s the play call,” Davidson said.

Democrats will also be under immense pressure from the liberal base to launch impeachment proceedings against Trump, though party leaders have kept the idea at arm’s length.

Still, if Democrats are seen as overstepping their bounds with their newfound subpoena powers, some Capitol Hill sources predicted that Republicans — even those who have not publicly embraced the president very tightly — may unite in their defense of Trump.

“Democrats are going to jump the shark. Everyone knows that they’re gonna go overboard,” the aide to the conservative lawmaker said. If so, the aide said it may surprise the public to see which lawmakers come out to back the president.

And with the loss of so many outspoken moderates, there will be less voices in the party willing to challenge the president.

Trump, who has repeatedly attacked lawmakers who challenge him, seemed to relish in the fact that some of his Republican critics lost their reelection bids.

“You had some that decided to, let’s stay away, let’s stay away. They did very poorly,” Trump said at a press conference at the White House. “I’m not sure that I should be happy or sad, but I feel just fine about it.”