FEBRUARY 27, 1997
Congress is returning from it's three week recess. Kwame Holman followed freshman Rep. Zach Wamp back to his constituency in Eastern Tennessee.
KWAME HOLMAN: In the sleep hallows of Eastern Tennessee early this month, folks were just digging out from the snowstorm that paralyzed the region for five days. Neighbors in the small rural town of Rockwood finally were able to meet each other on the street and do some shopping. Politically, East Tennessee has a tradition of voting Republican, leading the way for the recent trend throughout the South away from voting Democratic.
REP. ZACH WAMP, (R) Tennessee: The blue-dog Democrats, I mean, they're shrinking almost by the month now or by the week, because they're switching parties. So I think--
KWAME HOLMAN: Today, Republicans are making even greater inroads here, thanks in part to a strong tie to the Republican takeover of Congress. It's Friday night and members of the Roane County Republican Party have gathered to celebrate their growing strength in this part of Tennessee and to welcome home one of the emerging stars of the historic Republican freshman class of the 104th Class. He's 38-year-old Zach Wamp, elected to a leadership post by his fellow freshmen Republicans back in Washington and considered a rising star by the party faithful here at home.
REP. ZACH WAMP: How are you doing, brother? Good to see you.
SPOKESMAN: In just a few shorts, I'm going to either come up here and introduce Speaker of the House Zach Wamp, or I'm going to introduce Gov. Zach Wamp, but suffice to say, just for tonight, it's going to have to be Congressman, Congressman Zach Wamp. (applause)
REP. ZACH WAMP, (R) Tennessee: I see the DA, Scott McLuhan, I see Chancellor Williams. I see Maxie Crow. I mean, are there any Democrats left in Roane County?
KWAME HOLMAN: Wamp still is popular even though he and his Republican colleagues in Washington failed to deliver on most of the major items in their Contract with America: a balanced budget, tax cuts, and relief from burdensome government regulations. Republican freshmen have caught most of the blame for that failure, accused of being too hard-headed, particularly where the budget is concerned, but Wamp says that's not the case at all.
REP. ZACH WAMP: And the freshmen aren't unreasonable. We're not the militant bunch up there. We're the ones that have been working diligently with the conservative and moderate Democrats to come up with a reasonable compromise.
KWAME HOLMAN: To try to find out how others in Eastern Tennessee view the Republican Revolution, we invited a group of political and business leaders for a talk at Junior's Restaurant in Rockwood. Matt Caldwell is a real estate developer who voted for Wamp's Democratic opponent in the last election.
MATT CALDWELL: I think Zach has been a very aggressive Congressman. I think his work ethic is--has been excellent on Capitol Hill, as far as, as going after his, his work and his scope of work on a national level.
KWAME HOLMAN: Junior McCullough, a prominent Democrat in town, owns the restaurant that bears his name.
JUNIOR McCULLOUGH: They've done a lot of talking. I feel like the majority of us out here want to see some response from that talking, and that, that seems like that that's all that they have done is talk.
ROLLIN WYRICK: These freshmen are a minority. I'm glad to see a bunch of new people go up there and do just exactly what they said they were going to do before they got elected.
KWAME HOLMAN: Rollin Wyrick, a Republican, owns a plumbing business in Rockwood.
ROLLIN WYRICK: And they got elected to balance the budget, to do Contract with America, all this stuff, and they're basically staying with it.
KWAME HOLMAN: But Tony Brown, a city commissioner in nearby Kingston, reminds his friends that the net result of all the budget battles has been a stalemate.
TONY BROWN: But what good does it do, though, when they all get up and argue about it, and they say they're going to shut the government down, and we shut it down for a week and we argue back and forth on national TV and everybody reads about it. It's a good pastime; it's better than the soap operas.
ROLLIN WYRICK: I never heard the Democrats talk about balance the budget seriously until in the last year. I mean, everybody's talking about it now, and I think that's a big step forward, and the fact that we got a majority Republican Congress had a big bearing on that. I think they've brought everybody around to making that the issue.
KWAME HOLMAN: But Congressman Wamp admits he's frustrated House Republicans don't have more to show one year into the revolution. Wamp told us East Tennesseeans are understandably frustrated too.
REP. ZACH WAMP: Their frustration's not that we're going too far or that it was too harsh an agenda. It's that we weren't able to get the Senate and the President to go along with it. If we had it to do over again, our strategy shouldn't have been that strategy of force. It should have been a strategy of finesse and compromise. A lot of times throughout the year they would say, well, what happens if the President doesn't agree to this, and the statements would be made, well, the government will shut down. Well, the question should have been asked and then what, because we actually allowed the President, who's a very smooth politician, to try to take the high road. He actually effectively took the high road on the budget of all things. We got to get better at politics as a Republican majority and figure out how to work the other side into doing what we need them to do.