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In the drama of Government Shutdown 2011, a handful of powerful congressmen vie for the leading role. The Center for Public Integrity has reported extensively on their biggest donors and PAC contributors over the years.

As the drama unfolds on Capitol Hill, here’s a look at the players:

  • John Boehner was part of then-Speaker Newt Gingrich’s inner circle during the 1995-1996 shutdown, which turned into a political disaster for Republicans. Boehner has now risen to Speaker, in charge of a fractious caucus. GOP leadership put a $40 billion package of spending cuts on the table earlier this week.
  • Rep. Paul Ryan is the Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee, one of the self-styled “young guns” aiming to reshape budget-busting entitlements like Social Security and Medicare. Ryan was instrumental in writing the 10-year GOP budget plan that would cut $5.8 trillion.
  • Mitch McConnell, Republican leader in the Senate, faces similar pressures from newer, conservative senators. McConnell was appalled by a conservative effort to ban earmarks, having brought millions back to Kentucky throughout his career, but grudgingly agreed to support it even though he said it would save little money.
  • Harry Reid, majority leader of the Senate with a threadbare majority, has internal party issues as well. Democrats face an uphill road in 2012 Senate elections, and Reid has deficit-hawk chairmen like Kent Conrad of North Dakota to appease.

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