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But as to the political shift? "Obviously, had we been in the majority, there probably would have been more tax cuts and also more legislation that would control spending," she said. "On a personal level, however, there are 435 members in the House and I have very purposely tried to get to know as many as possible, because having a good working relationship is everything."
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This month, Bachmann traveled to Iraq, and despite more GOP defections from Bush's base of support, she returned as firm as ever in her conviction that the war is justified. Al-Qaida, she said, "doesn't show any signs of letting up." The congressional delegation met with Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, in one of Saddam Hussein's palaces.
What was the palace like?
"It's absolutely huge," she said. "I turned to my colleagues and said there's a commonality with the Mall of America, in that it's on that proportion. There's marble everywhere. The other thing I remarked about was there is water everywhere. He had man-made lakes all around his personal palace -- one for fishing, one for boating."
She said she was heartened after visiting soldiers hospitalized in Germany. "The first thing a soldier says when they come out of anesthesia is, 'Let my sergeant know I'm ready to go back. When can I go back?' They're determined not to leave, determined to go back and finish the mission."
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Back in Washington, Bachmann is on the phone with a supporter in Minnesota who's feeling slighted. Her lunch -- a small box of Sun-Maid raisins -- is on the desk. She knows the drill, expressing a folksy empathy -- "I understand there have been some tough times at the transportation corral" -- while not committing herself.
Suddenly, a disembodied squawk sounds from The Buzzer, the black box on the end table that announces that a vote is being called. Bachmann has 15 minutes to get from the fourth floor of the Cannon Building to the Capitol.
She doesn't miss a beat, managing to end the conversation without sounding as if she's giving him the bum's rush. If anything, the statement that she has to go now -- with its unspoken implication that the nation's business awaits -- lets them both bask in the power of her position.
She reaches beneath her desk, exchanging her heels for those clunky sandals, and seconds later is out the door, down the stairs and speed-walking the two long blocks to the Capitol, getting waved through security and striding onto the House floor.
Her vote cast, she returns to the office, climbing the 94 marble steps with the energy of someone who can hardly believe she has been given the chance to accomplish so much. She steams ahead, right up to the sixth and final flight of gleaming marble. Kim Ode • 612-673-7185
Kim Ode • firstname.lastname@example.org
Prince offered samples of a funky new solo album during an intimate late-night preview. He didn’t mention the album’s title or release date, but he did express frustration with the slow-grinding wheels of the record business.