Illinois' 'freshman five' honored at reception

January 5, 2011 6:10:33 AM PST
Wednesday marks the changing of the guard on Capitol Hill.

With the new Congress comes a change in the balance of power. The largest influx of new members in nearly 20 years will be sworn in. Most are Republicans. The GOP will control the House and gains power in the Senate.

Five new Republicans are coming to Congress from Illinois. Four are from the Chicago suburbs. They range from a hard-line tea partier to a social moderate. All vow to cut spending. ABC7 caught up with most of them Tuesday night at a reception in Washington, D.C.

Acting as the elder statesman, Illinois' freshman senator Mark Kirk introduced the youngest person to ever hold a seat in the 11th District over 60 years. Thirty-two-year-old Adam Kinzinger said his young age and looks are catching people by surprise.

"I actually went into my office today and I sat in my chair for first time, and I felt like the congressman is going to be walking in any time, so it's hard to sink in," said U.S. Rep.-elect Adam Kinzinger.

Kinzinger is one of Illinois' 'freshman five,' Republicans who rode in with the national wave of conservatives. All but one stopped by a Capitol Hill reception held in their honor Tuesday night.

While the Republican Party sunk in millions of dollars in most of the races, U.S. Rep.-elect Joe Walsh did not get any of the party's help. His grass-roots campaign and tea party credentials helped the 49-year-old beat Melissa Bean by 291 votes in the Eighth District. Walsh is already making a splash by declining a congressional pension and government health care.

"I don't want to burden the American taxpayer with any portion of my health care bill. Health care in this country is a problem. I want to go out on the individual marketplace, like a lot of Americans do, my wife and I, and see what we can find," Walsh said.

Former five-term Congressman Mark Kirk has some advice for incoming freshmen.

"My main advice to the new members is be very quiet, listen and learn in the early days. Because you could make an early mistake," said Kirk.

Kirk is being replaced in the 10th District by Kennelworth business owner Bob Dold. He has taken his mentor's advice by listening even to members across the aisle.

"I'm looking forward to finding common ground to really move the needle and move the countryforward, because that's what the people asked us to do," Dold said.

Illinois Democratic Senator Dick Durbin talked about bipartisanship Tuesday when he held a press conference for a new food safety bill he sponsored.

"When members of both political parties are willing to give and compromise and work together, we can get a lot done," Durbin said.

While there's great talk of bipartisanship, the reality is that the incoming Speaker of the House John Boehner has already drafted a simple two-page bill to scrap the entire health care bill.

The new Congress and new Speaker of the House will be sworn in Wednesday at noon.

ABC7 was unable to talk to 14th District Congressman-elect Randy Hultgren because he was in a meeting.