“It’s not a competition.” That’s the word from Rep. Michele Bachmann (R., Minn.) who is slated to give her own rebuttal to the president’s State of the Union address tonight, after Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), the House Budget Committee chairman, gives the official GOP response.
Speaking with reporters late Monday, Bachmann said that she is “very excited” about Ryan’s opportunity and predicts that he will do a “wonderful job.” Her remarks, she noted, are focused more toward the “people in the Tea Party.”
“I was extended an invitation by the Tea Party Express to speak to their membership,” Bachmann said. “I never took this as a State of the Union response, necessarily.”
As we noted yesterday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) does not see the two GOP reactions as evidence of any friction between the Tea Party and the Republican leadership. “Paul Ryan is giving the official Republican response,” Cantor said at his weekly briefing. “Michele Bachmann, just as the other 534 members of the House and Senate, are going to have opinions as to the State of the Union. Again, this is a process that happens every year and I look forward to all comments.”
Bachmann was in the spotlight for another reason on Monday, thanks to the constitutional seminar she hosted for House members in the Capitol basement. The closed-door event was organized via the House Tea Party Caucus, a group Bachmann founded.
For its inaugural session, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia spoke. Approximately 50 lawmakers attended, including four Democrats — one of them was Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D., Ill.), a progressive, who praised the event.
“It was perfectly suited for a bipartisan audience,” Schakowsky said. “He suggested that we all get a hard copy of the Federalist Papers and read them and underline them and dog-ear them.”
Schakowsky added that it was interesting to hear Scalia say that he does not believe in a “living Constitution.” In that vein, he urged the assembled to attempt to amend the Constitution instead of pushing for new interpretations via legislation. “He talked about a couple of old cases where the Congress made mistakes, he felt, in its judgment, but they were not especially of a political nature. . . . This was pretty dry, actually.”
Bachmann reiterated the non-political premise at a press conference. “We were delighted with the attendance,” she said. “This was truly a bipartisan seminar.”
NRO followed up: We asked Bachmann whether she will enlist any liberal-leaning justices to address her group. “I think that we will be extending an invitation to any of the justices who would like to speak with us,” she replied. “We’d be honored to have any of them to come. Whether they are liberal or conservative, we’d leave to your judgment to determine.”