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GOP FACES CHALLENGE TO MATCH 1860 GROUP

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Ambitious they may be, but the current crop of Republican revolutionaries will have a hard time matching what their predecessors did when they hit town.

The first Republican-majority Congress, elected with Abraham Lincoln in 1860, passed the Homestead and Internal Revenue acts, created the Department of Agriculture and the land-grant college system and ceded the land for the first transcontinental railroad. With the Civil War raging nearly within earshot, this Congress, according to historian James McPherson, "did more than any other in history to change the course of national life."In many ways the new Congress, with its talk of shrinking government and its influence on America, is the reverse of that one. But like their 19th century counterparts, these Republicans could in a relatively short time make changes that would determine the national agenda for decades.