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Walden will lead U.S. House transition

The new Republican leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives can avoid political pitfalls plaguing majorities following other mid-term elections by being more transparent while heeding the electorate's message to cut the deficit, said U.S. Rep. Greg Walden.

"This is an historic spanking taking place," the Republican from Hood River said of the Democrats losing control of the House on Tuesday. "But there is nothing that says if we don't do what we say we are going to do, we may get the paddle in two years."

The GOP received its own paddling when it lost its majority after over-reaching following the 1994 election, he acknowledged.

Tuesday's election was a "clarion call for a course change," he said during a telephone conference call from Capitol Hill to journalists late Wednesday morning.

"The voters spoke very clearly they want us to work together to solve problems," he stressed.

Walden made the comments shortly after presumptive new House Speaker U.S. Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, named him chairman of the GOP's transition team for the new majority in the 112th Congress.

"As a former small businessman, skilled legislator and trusted member of our leadership team, Greg Walden is the right person to lead this transition effort," Boehner said in a prepared statement.

Despite his growing national influence in the party, Walden, who was named the GOP's House leadership chairman earlier this year, stressed that he had no interest in running for a top party post. He easily won a seventh term on Tuesday.

"I will continue doing what I always do," he said, referring to visiting each county in his vast district at least twice a year. The district covers Eastern Oregon and Jackson County as well as portions of eastern Josephine County.

"Oregon is my home — I love getting back there," he said. "Staying in touch is what you have to do. The worst thing would be to find yourself in some Washington bubble."

In addition to making the House business more open and transparent, another major goal of the new majority will be to cut spending and the deficit, Walden said.

Specifically, that could include creating a three-day waiting period before legislation goes to a floor vote, allowing the public to read bills online and stopping the costly practice of earmarking, he added.

With more than 60 new GOP members, the majority elected Tuesday with Tea Party backing, the House leadership will reach out to the newly minted representatives, he said.

"The new members coming in are bringing the mindset that they didn't like how this place was run," he said. "They will come in and say, 'We want change.' That will be an important antidote for the poison that nearly killed this place."

However, Walden also stressed the new majority leadership wants to reach across the aisle to work with Democrats. The new leadership will take advantage of skills, regardless of party affiliation, he said.

"We've got a big task," he said of solving problems facing the nation. "Americans want us to park the partisan weaponry."

And there is no question what is worrying the electorate, he said.

"First and foremost in the minds of Americans, we need to do everything we can to get the economy going again," he said. "It's about jobs."

While Walden said it was too early to talk about his specific goals for Oregon, he said he would be working with Oregon Democrats to make federal payments to rural timber counties permanent.

Being a member of the GOP national hierarchy will help that endeavor, he observed.

Walden repeatedly stressed the new majority would not make the same mistakes of past majorities in Congress.

"We want to demonstrate a tangible difference between previous leaderships, both Republican and Democrat," he said. "We want to make this House something the American people can be proud of.

"It's not going to be easy," he added. "I'm not Pollyanish about this. It's going to be hard work."

However, meaningful debate and dialogue in the House will go a long way in bringing about bipartisan solutions, he said.

Meanwhile, the new majority leadership in the House won't forget who gave the GOP the majority voice on Tuesday, he said.

"We think it's important to remember their message," he said of the voters, adding, "It's important to remember who sent you to the dance."

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.

Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore. speaks during an election night gathering hosted by the National Republican Congressional Committee, in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen) - AP