And it may help united the 234 House Republicans, 43 percent of whom were first elected in 2010 or are freshmen first elected in 2012. Most share the views and impulses of the tea party movement and are determined to cut government spending.
The tea party movement, like the peace movement four decades before, injected many new people into an old party. Tea party voters, like peacenik voters, tend to prefer the purest candidates in primaries, and tea party congressmen, like peacenik congressmen, tend to take confrontational and purist stands on issues.
But just as peacenik Democrats learned that the public will not tolerate cutting off defense spending when troops are in the field, so tea party Republicans seem to be learning that the public won't tolerate defaulting on the national debt.
They feel quite differently about spending cuts. A poll by the Republican Tarrance Group for the Public Notice group showed 74 percent agreeing that the federal government spends too much and rejecting Obama's notion that "we don't have a spending problem."
So far this year the spotlight has been on divisions among Republicans. Twice Boehner has brought to the floor bills opposed by most House Republicans -- the fiscal cliff deal and the Sandy appropriation.
That violates former Speaker Dennis Hastert's rule never to schedule a bill opposed by a majority of the majority party. But Hastert served for only two years with a Democratic president, at a time when we had budget surpluses.
If Boehner can get a Republican majority for a short-term debt limit increase, the spotlight falls on Harry Reid and Senate Democrats. Reid has been blocking budgets because he can't get a majority of 50 Democrats.
House Republicans are learning they can't govern from just one house of Congress. But they can shine the spotlight on Senate and White House Democrats' inability or unwillingness to govern.
Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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