The House

The 63 Democratic House freshmen haven't been as rebellious as many expected just after their election. But they are not nearly as tame as the leadership of the party would like. Their biggest show of independence to date: About a third of the newcomers teamed up with Republicans and Democratic conservatives to block the renewal of select committees on narcotics, hunger, the family, and aging. The committees are powerless, but they are liberal soapboxes and their staffs offer patronage. With the defections, Speaker Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.) faced defeat if he brought a measure extending the panels' lives to the floor. Instead, he is likely to let them expire on Mar. 31. More ominously for the leadership, the moderate-to-conservative coalition that doomed the select committees could pose a major threat on more important issues, including line-item veto authority for the President and even a balanced-budget constitutional amendment.

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