Michele Bachmann: I'm not Competing With Paul Ryan
Following the conclusion of the "Conservative Constitutional Seminar" that her House Tea Party Caucus organized for members of Congress last night, Rep. Michele Bachmann was asked about her decision to offer a rebuttal to tonight's State of the Union address. While Rep. Paul Ryan is giving the official Republican response, Bachmann is offering a speech of her own that will begin shortly after Ryan's statement concludes.
Bachmann declined to talk about her planned address on camera. Off camera, she told reporters she her response was not meant to compete with Ryan's.
Bachmann said she was invited to speak by the Tea Party Express and "never took this as a State of the Union response, necessarily."
"This is not a competition. I am very excited about Paul Ryan's response," the Minnesota Republican said. "I think he'll do a wonderful job. This was really a reaction that I was giving to people in the tea party."
Bachmann told CNN today that she will make clear in her remarks that she is not offering an official State of the Union response.
Yet it's hard to take it as anything other than an unofficial response to the president's speech - or, perhaps, an official response from the Tea Party. Bachmann's decision to deliver a speech after the State of the Union - despite the fact that the Republican Party chose someone else to do that job - has once again raised questions about the relationship between the establishment GOP and its Tea Party insurgents.
And while Bachmann says her speech isn't "necessarily" a response to the State of the Union address, her office emailed CBS News excerpts of the speech that called it just that. In the planned remarks, Bachmann says that "[a]fter the $700 billion bailout, the trillion-dollar stimulus, and the massive budget bill with over 9,000 earmarks that the President signed, many of you implored Washington to please stop spending money we don't have. But, instead of cutting, we saw an unprecedented explosion of government spending and debt at President Obama's direction; unlike anything we have seen in the history of our country."
"Thanks to all of you, there's reason to hope that real spending cuts are coming," she plans to say. "Last November many of you went to the polls and voted out big-spending politicians and you put in their place men and women who have come to Washington with a commitment to follow the Constitution and cut the size of government. And I believe that we are in the early days of a history-making turn here in the House of Representatives."
Ryan, who is seen as the GOP's budget guru, is also planning to focus on cutting spending - though his remarks may be somewhat less confrontational than Bachmann's. In excerpts of his remarks released to CBS News, the Wisconsin Republican called on Americans to "hold all of us accountable" on dealing with the nation's massive budget deficit.
"In this very room, the House will produce, debate, and advance a budget," he plans to say. "Last year - in an unprecedented failure- Congress chose not to pass, or even propose a budget. The spending spree continued unchecked. We owe you a better choice and a different vision. Our forthcoming budget is our obligation to you - to show you how we intend to do things differently ... how we will cut spending to get the debt down... help create jobs and prosperity ... and reform government programs."
While Ryan's response will be carried by all the major networks, most will not carry Bachmann's comments. The exception is CNN, which has decided to air both GOP speeches. The Washington Post reports that decision has caused some consternation among Republicans who worry it will send a message that they lack a coherent message.
"CNN is basically inventing a conflict that doesn't really exist," an unnamed GOP aide complained to The Post. "It's not responsible journalism." (Liberals aren't thrilled with the situation either, the newspaper notes, both because they worry Bachmann could make Ryan look better by comparison and because the left does not get its response to the speech aired.)
CNN appears to have a close relationship with the Tea Party Express, with whom it is sponsoring a Republican presidential debate. In a statement, the network explained its decision to air Bachmann's speech.
"The Tea Party has become a major force in American politics and within the Republican Party," the network said. "Hearing the Tea Party's perspective on the State of the Union is something we believe CNN's viewers will be interested in hearing and we are happy to include this perspective as one of many in tonight's coverage."
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