By MICHAEL FALCONE and AMY WALTER
As Republicans celebrated their new power in Washington yesterday, two prominent Tea Party activists walked the halls of Capitol Hill carrying a message: we’re keeping an eye on you.
Although roughly half of the freshman class of lawmakers ran on a Tea Party platform -- and enjoyed Tea Party support -- Jenny Beth Martin and Mark Meckler, the co-founders of the national group, Tea Party Patriots, aren’t taking anything for granted.
They wasted no time expressing their displeasure with Republican leaders who have been signaling that they would not be able to follow through on their pledge to cut $100 billion from the federal budget this year. They were also passing along the sentiment that the vast majority of their members across the country oppose raising the debt ceiling and support spending cuts.
“The piggy bank is empty,” Meckler told ABC News yesterday, and while he and Martin agreed that the government should not default on its loans, he said following through on the promise to significantly trim the budget was “about political will.”
For their part, GOP leaders pushed back on the suggestion that they were breaking a promise on that score.
“There is no retreat from House Republicans’ pledge to cut spending,” Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., chairman of the House Budget Committee said in a statement yesterday. “To be clear, House Republicans will vote to cut their own budgets by 5 percent this week. Next week, we will vote to cut trillions of dollars in government spending by repealing the President’s health care law. In addition to these immediate steps, we will clean up the fiscal wreckage left by House Democrats, setting spending limits for the remainder of FY2011 at pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels for non-security discretionary spending.” http://bit.ly/eYurkP
Should Republicans fail to follow through, Meckler and Martin said the Tea Party Patriots won’t hesitate to bring out the “big guns” -- their term for mobilizing their considerable member base through social media, mass e-mail messages, conference calls, town hall meetings, rallies and other avenues to put pressure on lawmakers.
And in a nod to Tea Party values, the House will open this morning with a reading of the Constitution in its entirety by members. Newly sworn-in House Speaker John Boehner and GOP Majority Leader Eric Cantor will begin the reading. Not only that, under new House rules passed yesterday, all bills must include a section citing their constitutional authority.
BOTTOM LINE: While Meckler and Martin emphasized that their discussions with lawmakers yesterday were much more about offering “carrots” than wielding a “stick,” they vowed to hold GOP leaders accountable. But privately GOP aides on the Hill are suggesting that Tea Party types have misunderstood their intentions when it comes to cutting spending -- a reflection of inevitable friction down the road.
YOUR CONSTIUTIONAL I.Q. With lawmakers preparing to read the Constitution on the House floor today, how much do you know about the founding document? Test your Constitutional I.Q. right here: http://abcn.ws/gz3XBz
CANTOR ON REPEAL AND SPENDING. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., spoke with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on “Good Morning America” today about the GOP’s agenda on Capitol Hill. On the Republicans’ planned vote to attempt to repeal the health care reform bill, Cantor said it was a way to “send a signal that we’re dead serious about getting rid of this spending of money we don’t have.” http://abcn.ws/dQVMCR
On spending, Cantor predicted: “We are going to accomplish more than $100 billion in cuts over the term of this Congress.”
Stephanopoulos: “But not the first year, as you promised?”
Cantor: “George, what we promised was we are going to bring spending down to ’08 levels.”
WHITE HOUSE WATCH. Former Commerce Secretary Bill Daley spent yesterday in meetings at the White House, including with President Obama, as speculation heats up that he will be named the next White House Chief of Staff, ABC’s Jake Tapper reports. Tapper takes a look at Daley’s background, including the business acumen he would bring to the job. On Friday the president is expected to make two key economic appointments, naming Gene Sperling as the new Director of the National Economic Council and Obama administration official Ron Bloom to take on a portfolio focusing on the country’s manufacturing sector. http://abcn.ws/gDmXsW
THE BOEHNER ERA. "No longer can we fall short. No longer can we kick the can down the road," House Speaker John Boehner said in his opening remarks yesterday. "The people voted to end business as usual, and today we begin to carry out their instructions." ABC’s Z. Byron Wolf, Jonathan Karl and Bradley Blackburn review yesterday developments on the Hill as well as GOP priorities for their first days of the 112th Congress. http://abcn.ws/dUPfs4
MUST WATCH: Meet the new boss, same as the old boss? ABC News takes a look at the historical themes of the Speaker of the House swearing-in speeches and finds they sound a lot alike. http://abcn.ws/fllXTe
ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE”: It’s a “Top Line” double header as ABC’s Karen Travers and Zach Wolf talk to freshman Congressman David Schweikert, R-Ariz., as well as veteran Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern. http://bit.ly/ABCTopLine
OBAMA TO THE CHAMBER.: “The U.S. Chamber confirmed on Wednesday that President Obama accepted its invitation to address its members on Feb. 7,” ABC News’ Jon Garcia and Karen Travers report. “We look forward to hosting the President next month to discuss jobs and the economy,” said Tom Collamore, Senior Vice President of Communications at the Chamber. … Obama and the Chamber butted heads throughout the fall campaign season over the use of foreign money in American elections and Chamber President Tom Donohue did not shy away from attacking the White House over the health care law and financial reform. This will be the first time the president has addressed the members of the Chamber of Commerce.” http://abcn.ws/eczDup
GOP’S UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES. “They have seized committee gavels and newfound political clout, but the flurry of promotions within the new Republican House majority could complicate the GOP’s plans to wrest control of the Senate from Democrats in 2012,” Roll Call’s Steve Peoples and Jessica Brady note. “From New York to Ohio to Wisconsin, would-be Republican Senate candidates might prefer to hold on to new leadership posts rather than run for statewide office in the next cycle, a process that has already begun in some states. New York Republicans have long pushed Rep. Peter King to run for the Senate, but the 10-term Member told Roll Call that he’s thrilled with his new role as chairman of the Homeland Security Committee.” http://bit.ly/dQq60n
MR. DANIELS GOES TO CPAC. “Indiana Gov Mitch Daniels will attend CPAC, speaking to the annual conservative confab on Feb. 11,” Politico’s Jonathan Martin hears from a source. “It's another sign that Daniels is thinking seriously about a White House bid. He has previously eschewed the Republican cattle call circuit, insisting that he's entirely focused on his day job. The CPAC appearance offers Daniels a high-profile platform to address his comments last year that there ought to be a ‘truce’ on cultural issues to address the country's pressing fiscal problems.”
DCCC GETS ORGANIZED. Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel announced the committee’s five National Chairs this morning: Congressman Joe Crowley (NY) will serve as the DCCC National Chair for Finance; Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL) will serve as the DCCC National Chair for Member and Candidate Services; Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz (PA) will serve as National Chair for Recruiting; Congressman Keith Ellison (MN) will serve as National Chair of Community Outreach for the 2011-2012 cycle; and, Congressman Pedro Pierluisi (PR) will serve as the National Chair of Community Mobilization.
BIDEN DISPENSES DATING ADVICE: Vice President Joe Biden offered a warning to senators' female kin during yesterday’s photo ops with members. Take a look: http://abcn.ws/e0tl3d
@ WestWingReport : Higher expectations for tomorrow's jobs report in the wake of a private survey showing 297,000 private sector jobs were created last month
@ markknoller : It was Cong. Bob Goodlatte's R-VA idea; he commences the reading at 1030a. Other House members can take part on 1st come 1st served basis.
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