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Freshman Republicans look to form conservative 'Squad'

WASHINGTON — There’s a new crew on Capitol Hill — "The Squad" is facing opposition from a record breaking diverse republican class of freshman members. And they are calling themselves "The Force."

“I want to create a force within my freshman class that will have to be reckoned with. A force of reason, a force for freedom, a force for democracy,” Florida Republican Congresswoman-elect Maria Elvira Salazar, a Cuban-American former journalist, told NBC News.

Salazar is part of the most diverse freshman Republican class in history with eight members who identify as a person of color or minority. And they plan to be a counter the progressive “Squad”, led by New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, with what they say is a message against socialism.

“When I hear this Democratic socialism that is being presented within the Democratic Party, I can only tell you that only brings misery, oppression and exile. And how do I know? Because I have lived it and I have covered it,” Salazar said.

Newly elected Nicole Malliotakis, a Greek-American and the only Republican New York City will send to Congress, embraced the conservative crew.

Congresswoman-elect Nicole Malliotakis, R-N.Y., arrives at the Capitol on Nov. 13, 2020.Samuel Corum / Getty Images

“We need to form our own ‘squad.’ We have a group of new Republicans who love America. We value freedom, liberty and opportunity,” Malliotakis told The New York Post last week.

And Congresswoman-elect Victoria Spartz of Indiana, who grew up in Ukraine, claimed ‘The Squad’ brings a kind of message she didn’t think she’d see in the United States.

“I grew up in a socialistic country, the Socialist Republic of Ukraine. I saw what happens when it runs out of money and it is not pretty,” Spartz told Fox News. “And now we’re building socialism. I’m kind of going full circles. I can tell you what is going to be next. It’s very sad for me to see that.”

In 2018, Democrats elected progressive women who became known for challenging the establishment. The group, which includes Ocasio-Cortez and Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., has more than doubled with young progressives winning districts around the country this year.

Congressman-elect Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., one of the incoming progressive members, says they disagree on the Republican counter-group’s definition of socialism.

“I believe that some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, when they think of socialism, they think of communism and think of the government controlling everything and people being disempowered within democracy, and I think that's an incorrect definition, that's not how I define it," Bowman said.

He added, “What's going to be important is how we engage the rest of the caucus in these conversations and then the sense of urgency around the issue of climate change, the issue of universal health care, the issue of a federal jobs guarantee and meeting the needs of the American people.”

Congressman Ro Khanna, D-Calif., said the negative connotation used against the progressive faction of the Democratic caucus during the election wasn't successful.

“It didn’t work, I mean Joe Biden flipped five states against an incumbent president and so I just say that that's ineffective because people see when you have folks in huge wealth generating districts, calling for these policies,” Khanna said. “I don't think that's a very effective attack.”

“I mean it sounds ridiculous to me. I think they think they’re in high school. We’re in Congress,” Omar said when asked about the new group.