Freshman class for Congress may bring ideas of its own


SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Like many of Tom Huening's political crusades, the idea of fomenting a freshman class revolt among the huge new crop of congressional representatives who will be elected in November began as a long-shot, almost crackpot idea.

Now, many of the more than 100 new representatives-elect from both parties may indeed be meeting for two days in late November at a Holiday Inn in Omaha, Neb., even before they get to Washington for their formal orientation. Their tentative agenda includes a call to chuck the seniority system, cut their own office budgets, and toss away many of the perks of office.

Mr. Huening, a Republican San Mateo County, Calif., supervisor who is running for the open congressional seat in the 14th district, said he has received 122 positive responses to his invitations to the "Omaha Summit."Only candidates for the more than 80 open House seats and those challenging incumbents need RSVP. Returning incumbents won't be welcome.

Even Mr. Huening's Democratic opponent has accepted.

The 103rd Congress that will convene in January is likely to have the largest crop of freshmen since the post-Watergate Class of 1974. Even without a summit meeting in Omaha, there is going to a shake-up on the Hill.

One-third of the members of the House Ways and Means Committee, which writes tax law, will be gone. At least a dozen members of the powerful Appropriations Committee won't return.

If tradition prevails, the newcomers will have to wait for plum assignments, and many would rather not. It will have taken 18 years for Rep. Norm Mineta, D-Calif., a standout from the Class of 1974, to ascend to the chairmanship of the Public Works Committee, if that happens as expected next year.

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