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On the budget, House GOP's fiery freshmen reveal a pragmatic side

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Also shared among the 87 is the insistence that the voter mandate that sent them to Congress was a mandate to change how Washington works.

"The American people sent us here because they wanted change in Washington," says Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R) of Indiana, the owner of a farm-trucking company, who served eight years as a state legislator. "We have to stick to our principles and do what the American people want."

Since coming to Washington, the freshmen have faced a blizzard of votes on issues ranging from the repeal of health-care reform to historic cuts across vast areas of domestic spending – all while assembling a congressional staff and still learning to navigate the Capitol's underground tunnels. Like newcomers before them, they're stunned by the pace of the work, but also at how long it takes to make changes.

"Speed is fast, but nothing changes," says freshman Rep. Tim Scott (R) of South Carolina, commenting on what he has learned in his first three months in Congress.

While their impact on the House is formidable by the numbers – they comprise one-fifth of the House and more than one-third of House Republicans – the freshmen are still on a learning curve. More than half have no previous legislative experience, and more than one-third have never held political office.

Many freshmen note with surprise that the Senate can ignore House votes on issues ranging from the repeal of health-care reform to spending cuts. The spending bill to fund the balance of this fiscal year, which the House spent days crafting and amending, for example, was at first summarily dismissed by the Senate.

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