WASHINGTON — On the brink of power, House Republicans challenged President Barack Obama on Tuesday to join them in a drive to cut federal spending, ban earmarks and overhaul the tax code.
At the same time, incoming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., conceded the new GOP majority intends to bypass its own new transparency rules when it votes next week to wipe out the new health care law.
Republicans, their ranks expanded by tea party-backed freshmen, take control of the House when the 112th Congress convenes at noon today
In a celebratory mood, House Republicans met for nearly three hours. GOP freshmen have emphasized the need to reduce the deficit, within limits.
Still, Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said his colleagues defeated his proposal Tuesday to use savings from spending cuts only for deficit reduction, as opposed to shifting some money to other government programs.
In the Senate, Democrats retain their majority, which has shrunk from 60 to 53. Democrats still have ample power to stop cold any Republican proposals from the House.
Obama predicted Republicans would "play to their (political) base" initially.
He added: "But I'm pretty confident that they're going to recognize that our job is to govern and make sure that we are delivering jobs for the American people."
Cantor, in a news conference, said the GOP envisions a "cut and grow majority" to reduce government spending and regulations.
The first spending cut vote is set for Thursday, a 5 percent reduction in the amount ticketed for lawmakers' and committees' offices as well as leadership staff. Aides estimate the savings at $35 million over nine months.
Republicans have pledged to vote on bills that cut spending at least once a week.
Obama is expected to deliver his State of the Union Address before a joint session of Congress on Jan. 25, and Cantor said he was "looking to see some significant spending cuts proposed."
He also said he hopes Obama will prevail on Senate Democrats to ban earmarks, which are funds dedicated to specific pet projects of individual lawmakers.
One of the first House votes today will be on a series of rules changes Republicans crafted to increase openness in Congress' proceedings.