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Time Will Tell: Is Price Right?

While some of his GOP colleagues may be looking to moderate their image in a world colored by Obama-tinted lenses, Republican Study Committee Chairman Tom Price (Ga.) says he’s readying to fight the liberal onslaught and that conservatism is not dead.

“To have a majority party believe they can operate with the heaviest of hands that this Congress has seen in anybody’s memory, that positive bipartisan forward looking solutions can come out of it, is just folly,” Price, the recently elected leader of the conservative House GOP group, said during an interview with Roll Call on Wednesday.

“This Democrat majority hid under a bush … pun intended, over the last two years,” Price said. “Now there is no place to hide the kind of policies they put in place. [Voters] were very desirous of change with this last election. It is also my firm belief that they will be shocked at the kind of change this Democrat majority” will bring.

Price contended that the victory of President-elect Barack Obama was less a rejection of conservative principles but more of a move by voters frustrated by the final years of the Bush administration.

“Well, the fellow who won the presidency ran saying he was going to cut taxes for 95 percent of the American people, that he was going to look at every single line in the budget to make certain it was worthy of continued inclusion and that he was going to increase the size of the military,” he said. “So I don’t think conservatism is dead. I think the American people were frustrated with what they saw in terms of the leadership in the White House … and wanted a change. That’s why we have elections.”

Price follows in the footsteps of a particularly assertive RSC chairman, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (Texas), who was a burr in the side of Republican leadership on issues such as earmark reform. Price said that while he would not actively seek out a clash with his party’s leadership, he would not shy away from going head to head when he felt the solutions presented by the RSC were not being taken seriously.

“Our job isn’t to pick fights,” he said. “Our job is to identify positive conservative solutions based in fundamental American principles for the problems that we confront as a nation. If those solutions and the proposals that we put forward are met with objections by whomever, then from a principled standpoint our job is to continue to advance those solutions that we believe are most consistent with the betterment of the American people and the nation.”

Nearly every member of the GOP’s incoming freshman class has committed to join the group of conservative lawmakers, increasing their majority inside the Republican Conference to about 110 members in the 111th Congress.

Price said his goal was to expand the group’s communications effort by adding an additional press secretary and selecting a member of the RSC to serve as communications chairman. Like several other Republican leadership offices, Price hopes to increase the use of new media — such a podcasting and blogging — among the membership.

But while the size of the RSC has increased, Price, like other Republicans leaders, sustained a huge blow with the alternation of the motion to recommit — a procedural tactic often used by the GOP in the 110th to cause heartburn for Democratic leaders or derail a bill completely.

“The removal of the provision was a huge loss for the Congress and the country as a whole,” Price said, while adding that his fellow conservatives will use the issue to their advantage.

“We have to point out over and over that it was changed to raise taxes, it’s the only reason they changed the rules was to raise taxes,” Price said. “I don’t think the American people want their taxes raised.”

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