Womack says that in a recovering economy, with nearly double-digit unemployment, the standard for a project's fate should be whether it would create jobs.
"It's no longer about, 'What can I do to sit in this committee and bring money home?' That's very selfish," the former mayor said Monday as he studied up on the panel's complex dynamics. "We've got to look at the appropriations process as, 'What can we do as a team to address America's spending problem?'"
Yes, there's a doctor in the House. A half-dozen newly elected ones, in fact, all sent to Washington in part on pledges to repeal the Democrats' health care overhaul.
Few groups can claim as much credibility on the issue, and they'll have help. The new members already have met with the House's Republican "doctors caucus" about the idea of overturning the overhaul, though talks have not progressed to much detail, participants said.
Obama has promised to veto a repeal if it reaches his desk. Even so, Republicans say they will try to starve the overhaul of money and dismantle it piece by piece.
Short of a full repeal, it's not yet clear that group is united on which parts of the law to try to cancel.
"Nothing is concrete," said Rep.-elect Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., the only dentist in the newly elected group. "We need to sit down and orchestrate things and take a look at what our ideas should be."
The other newly elected doctors are GOP Reps.-elect Joe Heck of Nevada, Nan Hayworth of New York, Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee, Larry Bucshon of Indiana, Andy Harris of Maryland and Paul Gosar of Arizona.
Their opposition is likely to be fierce. Pelosi cited the preservation of the health care law as a key reason she decided to stay in Congress even after Democrats lost their majority in the House. Senate Democrats remain in control of that chamber, though it's unclear whether the crop of senators up for re-election in 2012 would accept or refuse changes to the overhaul.
Then there's an army of industry lobbyists at the ready.
Bucshon, a heart surgeon, said Monday he had not yet been contacted by outside interest groups — and that seemed OK with him.
"I still have two more days," he said.
Earlier this fall, when the freshmen-to-be were ushered into the empty House chamber for orientation, they all sat on their respective partisan sides of the aisle. And then one Democrat moved.
Rep.-elect Hansen Clarke of Michigan strode across the aisle and sat on the Republican side.
"I thought, why not?" he said afterward.
It was a cheeky move by one of the nine newly elected Democrats frequently overshadowed at the top of the 112th Congress by their history-making Republican counterparts.
Pelosi has said the new minority's role is in part to keep the new GOP majority from undoing the legislation passed during the prolific Democratic-controlled Congress.
That, said one of the newly elected Democrats, may take some talking.
"Working across the aisle, I think, will be really important," said Rep.-elect Terri Sewell, D-Ala.