About two-thirds of Republicans returning to the House for the 116th Congress this week have never experienced the exquisite pain of being on the outs in an institution where the party in charge is totally in charge. Majority control runs the gamut from determining the floor agenda to determining access to the prime meeting space. It will be a rude awakening for many who have known only their exalted majority status.
“They say you will have a lot more time on your hands and will vote ‘no’ a lot more often,” said Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, who was elected in the 2010 wave that handed control of the House to Republicans in President Barack Obama’s first midterm election.
Representative Tom Cole, Republican of Oklahoma and a veteran of stints in both the minority and the majority, groaned when asked what advice he had for his House brethren who had tasted only life on top.
“Oh. Sheesh,” Mr. Cole said, hemming and hawing before advising, only half-jokingly, “Smoke a lot; drink a lot.”
Unlike the Senate, where individual members can exert some influence whether they are in the majority or not, those on the sidelines in the House have few options. After years of being in the know about the House agenda and majority strategy, Republican lawmakers will now struggle to even ascertain what the schedule is.
“You control nothing,” said Representative Peter T. King, the New York Republican who will be experiencing his fourth transition in House power — 1995 to Republican control, 2007 to Democratic supremacy, back to Republicans in 2011 and now another reassertion of Democratic might. “As far as calling the shots, we have nothing like the Senate where one guy can filibuster. You have no recourse.”