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Day One: Let the Battles Begin

Tom Williams/Roll Call
John Boehner, shown greeting visitors outside his new office Tuesday alongside other GOP leaders, will become the 53rd Speaker today.

“He’s no longer the head of a minority that’s trying to rebuild their base and make gains ahead of the next election,” the Democratic aide said. “He’s the head of the whole Congress, essentially.”

Boehner, 61, will have a difficult balancing act. His Conference has many new Members inspired by the tea party movement, and many of them expect him to push a sweeping, anti-spending, small-government agenda with an emphasis on the Constitution. At the same time, Boehner will face pressure from Democrats trying to paint him as an extremist who is out of touch with mainstream America, and perhaps more importantly, independent voters.

One of the biggest tests of his new leadership will be during the debate over raising the debt ceiling, which many new Republican Members have vowed to oppose. An impasse on the issue could force a government shutdown.

But Republican aides said they aren’t worried about an intraparty divide.

“On the big issues facing this Congress — repealing and replacing ObamaCare, cutting spending and helping the economy create jobs — there is zero daylight between our Members,” one Republican leadership aide said.

A former House Republican leadership aide also downplayed the prospect of a schism between Boehner and his right flank, saying criticism of leadership “is going to be natural part of who the tea partyers are” in Congress.

“There will be times when the House Republican leadership and the tea partyers will be naturally at odds, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing,” the former aide said.

Boehner is already giving a few nods to the tea party: On Thursday, the Constitution will be read aloud on the House floor, and Members will vote on a resolution that would reduce the operating budgets of House committees, leadership offices and individual Member offices by 5 percent. Republicans said the move would save taxpayers an estimated $35 million.

Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) on Tuesday labeled the new GOP majority a “cut and grow” party, citing plans to bring up spending cuts and deficit-reduction measures each week Members are in session.

But also on the agenda is an assault on what Republicans view as “job-killing” Obama administration regulations.

Incoming Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) plans to investigate the Environmental Protection Agency’s recent announcement to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and other industrial sites, while Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has said he wants to launch six major investigations during the first three months of the year, including inquiries into Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s role in the foreclosure crisis, recalls by the Food and Drug Administration, and the release of classified government cables by WikiLeaks.

Republicans appear unified now, but GOP aides and K Streeters acknowledged that the new majority will have a tougher time sticking together going forward, particularly once they begin the discussion over how to replace President Barack Obama’s health care law. House Republicans plan to vote next week on repealing it; Republicans campaigned on promises to “repeal and replace” the measure.

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