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Politics / CONGRESSIONAL LEADERSHIP

Game Time For Boehner, House GOP

John Boehner answers reporters' questions at the U.S. Capitol in December.(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

January 3, 2011

With the 112th Congress being sworn in on Wednesday, all eyes will be on the new House Republican majority. And already House Republicans have indicated that they will get a jump on their top priority: Cutting spending.

Here's a breakdown of the most notable political developments to watch this week on Capitol Hill, from John Boehner's moment in the spotlight, to a largely symbolic effort to repeal health care reform, to throwing the new Tea Party members of the House a bone.

1. Boehner's Moment In The Spotlight. When House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) takes the Speaker's gavel on Wednesday, he'll deliver a much anticipated address that will be closely watched for hints of how he will govern over a large and ideologically diverse class of Republican freshmen. With the exception of a deluge of profiles following the midterm elections -- including the lengthy 60 Minutes Profile -- Boehner has stayed out of the media limelight in recent weeks. And, as the Washington Post reported Monday, the Ohioan is eschewing the pomp and circumstance that surrounded Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) when they became speaker.

Boehner will focus on big picture principles like a smaller and more accountable government in his speech. But make no mistake, Boehner's path is a tricky one. He'll have to carefully navigate the conservative and Tea Party wings of his caucus. That'll be particularly difficult when it comes to raising the debt ceiling -- and action that conservative Tea Partiers are vocally opposed to but that will likely be necessary by spring.

2. Healthcare Repeal. House Republicans will also waste little time introducing legislation to repeal Pres. Obama's health care reform law. The legislation is entirely symbolic -- there is no way it would ever make it through the Democratically-controlled Senate or past the president's veto pen. But it will send the message that Republicans aren't going to give up the fight on health care. Incoming Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said on Sunday that the House will hold a vote on repealing the law before Obama's State of the Union later this month and that the GOP is "going to go after this bill piece by piece."

3. First Cuts. The first move that House Republicans will make toward cutting spending will also come this week when they introduce legislation to cut the budgets of member, committee and leadership offices. The legislation would cut those budgets by about 5 percent and only save about $25 million, but -- like the health care bill -- it'll be symbolic gesture toward a theme we can expect to hear a lot more about this Congress.

4. Reading The Constitution. The Republican House leadership is throwing those Tea Party members a bone early. On Thursday, they are requiring the Constitution be read on the House floor. The move is intended to appeal to Tea Party activists throughout the country who believe Congress -- and the president -- have overstepped their constitutional boundaries. Other than that, it'll largely be a civics lesson for the rest of us.

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