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New Indiana members of Congress settle in to roles

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Indiana's congressional delegation has some new faces — and with them a new, rightward tilt.

Four new Republicans began representing the state in the U.S. House on Wednesday as the 112th Congress began: Reps. Todd Young, Todd Rokita, Marlin Stutzman and Larry Bucshon. They join another newcomer — albeit one with a familiar face — in the U.S. Senate, where former GOP Sen. Dan Coats is taking over the seat vacated by Democrat Evan Bayh.

Like the rest of Congress, Indiana has shifted back toward Republicans after four years of solid Democratic gains. The GOP now holds six of Indiana's nine House seats and both of its Senate seats. In the 111th Congress, Democrats held five House seats and one of the state's Senate seats.

The switch has meant an almost immediate 180-degree shift in rhetoric and priorities for Indiana's congressional delegation, a change that was already obvious on Wednesday.

Take Young, who is representing Indiana's 9th District. He's replacing former Democratic Rep. Baron Hill, who was a strong supporter of President Barack Obama and provided key votes on a number of issues including Obama's signature health care plan.

One of Young's first priorities? "I intend to sign on as a co-sponsor to repeal and replace this health care legislation," Young said in an interview Wednesday.

Along with his new cohorts, Young has spent the last few days in a whirlwind of orientation sessions, learning how Congress works and meeting his new colleagues. He said he is acclimating quickly: "We've graduated from the 'where's the bathroom' stage," he said.

His next step, he said, will be pushing a slew of issues that helped Republicans ride back into power. Besides health care, he wants to work on finding ways to reduce the deficit and creating new jobs in the private sector.

On the other side of the Capitol, newly sworn in Sen. Dan Coats hit similar points.

There's less orientation involved for Coats, who previously served in the Senate from 1989 to 1999. But Coats said there are new colleagues to meet and what he called a "new spirit" in the chamber.

Coats is critical of Obama for what he called poor management of the deficit, and said the health care law has to change. He also lambasted the previous Congress' efforts at job creation.

"We have a chance now with Republicans controlling the House and with more sway in the Senate to effectively present a message," he said.

Rokita, who is taking over for GOP Rep. Stephen Buyer in Indiana's 4th District, agreed. He said the new additions to Indiana's congressional delegation are united by a sense of common purpose.

"We're here on a mission," he said. "This is the starting line not the finish line. So today is not so much a celebration or a time to dwell on the accomplishment of getting elected, it's time to get to work."

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  • New Congress?
    I have been reading on Politico about the congressmen who are hiring registered lobbyists for their staffs. In Indiana we don't have to worry about that; we have a lobbyist for our new Senator. I'm interested in the rest of the Indiana congressmen and who they hire for advice. I think the lobbyists will control the 112th Congress. The "new spirit" looks a lot like the past; special interest strikes again.
  • GO TODD!
    Now the real work begins, do it well.

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