Republicans accomplished their two main objectives during this lame-duck congressional session, House Republican Leader John Boehner said today: extending all of the Bush tax cuts and killing a government-spending bill that included earmarks. With those two accomplishments under their belts, Republicans will now focus on cutting government spending, Boehner said.
"We need to cut spending," the incoming House Speaker told reporters Friday. "That's what the American people want. That's what the economy needs."
He added: "Beginning on Jan. 5, the American people are gonig to watch their Congress do something differently."
Republicans yesterday proved their strength in Congress despite the fact that Democrats maintain power in both chambers for a few more weeks. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was forced to abandon a vote on the "omnibus" spending bill intended to fund the federal government through September of next year, due to GOP complaints about earmarks. Many of the earmarks (or regionally-specific projects) in the bill were requested by the very Republicans now complaining about them.
Boehner showed today that the GOP intends to claim the moral high ground on the matter despite the fact that many earmarks requests came from his party.
"We saw a victory for the American people when the so-called omnibus bill had an untimely death," he said. "The American people spoke out and the bill got scrapped." In a nod to the Tea Party movement, he noted that yesterday happened to be the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party.
Yesterday, Reidearmarks as simply "congressionally-directed spending." Democratic aides have pointed out that the $8 billion in earmarks represents less than 1 percent of the entire bill, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates yesterday said it would be a "gigantic problem for the Department of Defense" if the omnibus failed.
Reid yesterday also called his GOP colleagues hypocrites on the issue. In fact, the two biggest "earmarkers" in the Senate omnibus bill were Republicans, according to a tally completed by the nonpartisan Taxpayers for Common Sense: Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi requested 281 earmarks worth $561,075,018, and Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi requested 236 earmarks worth $449,302,179.
Boehner today said that the House, at least, will make its priorities "the people's priorities" - which he said means less spending -- under Republican control.
The House, he said, will be "the outpost in Washington for the American people and their desire for a smaller, less costly American government."
Boehner said he intends to institute a "cut as you go" rule in the House, so that any new spending proposed will have to be offset with cuts elsewhere. It's the Republican answer to the Democrats' attempts at a "pay as you go" system, in which all spending had to be paid for. Democrats often ignored that rule.
The leader also reiterated his promise from the GOP's "" to reduce spending to 2008 levels. The "Pledge to America" document released earlier this year was lacked specifics as to how to get back to those spending levels. Boehner said today the House would start by cutting its own budget, though that would make an exceedingly minor dent in the deficit.
"Then we'll turn our attention to the rest of the budget," he said, "including killing the health care law... We can't borrow and spend our way to prosperity."
The health care law is projected by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office to reduce the deficit, not increase it.
Boehner said the tax deal the House passed yesterday, which is expected to add around $900 billion to the deficit, was a "good first step" to reviving the economy.
"You can't gave a growing economy if you're going to raise taxes on the very people you expect to invest in our economy," he said, referring to the upper-income Americans who also saw their tax cuts extended in spite of Democratic resistance.
"Considering that Democrats control the House, the Senate and the White House, I thought on balance it was worthy of my vote," Boehner said of the package.
Stephanie Condon is a political reporter for CBSNews.com. You can read more of her posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.