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Bachmann responds to Obama with 'cut the govt'

Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., is pictured Tuesday on Capitol Hill prior to President Obama's State of the Union address. AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, in a way, agreed Tuesday night with President Obama.

While Obama used his State of the Union speech to call for a five-year federal spending freeze, other than in military programs, the Minnesota congresswoman used a nationally televised response to Obama to ask federal officials to slow down spending.

Talking to voters, Bachmann said that the message from the 2010 election was clear: "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."

In a speech carried nationally on cable television news channels and the Internet, Bachmann was in the spotlight Tuesday as she apparently considers running for president next year.

Bachmann did not deliver the official Republican response to Obama's State of the Union address, but she received far more publicity than Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan did for his GOP-endorsed speech.

Reaction from other federal Minnesota lawmakers was predictably mixed, with Republicans more likely to side with Bachmann and Democrats on Obama's side. But the tone was calmer than in previous years.

Even with the new atmosphere, Bachmann was critical of Obama.

"After 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," her prepared remarks said. "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."

Bachmann, speaking at the request of the conservative and libertarian Tea Party movement, listed suggestions federal policymakers could follow, including passing a federal balanced budget constitutional amendment to be introduced today by several lawmakers, including new Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D.

Sen. Al Franken, a Democrat, said he agrees with Obama putting a priority on creating jobs.

"I've spent the past few weeks traveling around Minnesota talking with workers, small business owners and educators," Franken said. "And from East Grand Forks and Alexandria to Rochester and Duluth, everyone reinforced that investing in education, job training and innovation is essential to our economic future and creating long-term prosperity."

Franken said that education reform is important this year.

Obama emphasized the economy in the national speech, coming two and a half weeks after U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona was shot. That created a new feeling of compassion in Congress, with Democrats and Republicans sitting next to each other, breaking a long tradition of the parties sitting on opposite sides of the House chamber.

"New laws will only pass with support from Democrats and Republicans. We will move forward together, or not at all - for the challenges we face are bigger than party, and bigger than politics," Obama said. "At stake right now is not who wins the next election; after all, we just had an election. At stake is whether new jobs and industries take root in this country, or somewhere else."

Minnesota's congressional delegation joined the bipartisan atmosphere Tuesday morning by eating breakfast together.

Today, the delegation plans to gather for a "Hot Dish Off," a friendly lunch competition in a Franken-hosted event.

Franken and Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Reps. Betty McCollum, Bachmann, Keith Ellison and Tim Walz plan to participate in the hot dish competition.

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.