John Boehner
Charles Dharapak  /  AP
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio holds up the gavel during the first session of the 112th Congress, on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday.
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updated 1/6/2011 8:54:03 AM ET 2011-01-06T13:54:03

Republicans have already violated some of the vows they made in taking stewardship of the House.

Their pledge to cut $100 billion from the budget in one year won't be kept.

And for a coming vote seeking to repeal the health care overhaul, the first major initiative of the new Congress, lawmakers won't be allowed to propose changes to the legislation despite Republican promises to end such heavy-handed tactics from the days of Democratic control.

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Is business as usual really back so fast?

That's not clear one day after Democrat Nancy Pelosi yielded the gavel to the new Republican House leader, John Boehner. The GOP came to power in the House with an agenda that, if carried through, would in fact change how the government spends, taxes and does its legislative business.

Story: 112th Congress sworn in, GOP flexes muscles

Deja vu all over again?
But those with long memories may have the feeling they've seen this movie before.

After the GOP won control of Congress in the 1994 elections, the House churned out a series of votes aimed at fulfilling promises made in the party's "Contract With America." Most hit a dead end in the Senate. The GOP's new governing document, "A Pledge to America," covers many of the same themes and faces many of the same problems.

The effort to repeal the health care law, for one, is expected to pass in the House and fail in the Senate, going nowhere.

Video: Boehner takes gavel as GOP takes back power (on this page)

A look at some of the Republican promises in the campaign that delivered them control of the House, and their prospects now:

Promise 1: Cut spending
"We will roll back government spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels, saving us at least $100 billion in the first year alone," the GOP pledge stated.

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It turns out $100 billion is way out of reach.

By the time the current stopgap spending bill expires March 4, five months of the budget year — which began Oct. 1 — will have passed. Republicans acknowledge it's unrealistic to force even deeper cuts for the rest of the budget year to make up for money that's already been spent at the current, higher levels.

Video: Tea Party gets Constitution shout-out (on this page)

What is more, Republicans juiced up the $100 billion promise in the first place by using as their starting point President Barack Obama's $1.128 trillion budget request, a theoretical figure that was never approved by Congress.

Charles Dharapak  /  AP
House Speaker-desigante John Boehner of Ohio greets House members during the first session of the 112th Congress, on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday.

Republicans are bristling at accusations that they're backtracking from the $100 billion promise even as they concede they can't pull it off. Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said Republicans will set spending limits "for the remainder" of the budget year at levels in effect before the 2009 stimulus.

Promise 2: Reform Congress
"We will let any lawmaker — Democrat or Republican — offer amendments to reduce spending," the pledge said. "House Democrats have relied heavily on what are known as 'martial law' procedures during the current Congress, particularly provisions that allow them to bring any bill to the floor with little or no notice and deny Republican members of Congress or even factions of their own party their right to debate and offer amendments or substitutes for consideration or vote."

Despite the promise of more open debate and the opportunity to offer floor amendments, GOP leaders will bring legislation to repeal Obama's signature health care overhaul bill to the floor next week and deny Democrats any chance to try to preserve popular provisions.

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Republicans say that repealing the health care measure is a core campaign promise that deserves an up or down vote.

But it denies minority Democrats the chance to force individual votes on certain provisions of the new law, such as the ban on insurance company discrimination against people with pre-existing illness or the measure allowing children to stay on their parents' health plan until they turn 26.

Blocking votes on such popular provisions would protect newly elected Republicans, especially in swing districts, from politically difficult decisions. It also would guarantee a united GOP front against the bill.

Democrats also say that repealing the health care law would add to the deficit, contrary to the GOP's promise to curb runaway deficits.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office's most recent estimate says that the Democratic health measure would reduce the deficit by $143 billion over the coming decade, savings that would disappear if the law is repealed. Republicans counter that that figure is unrealistic.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Tea Party gets Constitution shout-out

  1. Closed captioning of: Tea Party gets Constitution shout-out

    >>> but let's begin with the guard changing in washington. nbc's capitol hill correspondent, kelly o'donnell, has the latest to on that. kelly , good morning.

    >> reporter: good morning, matt. well, the new look of the new congress will play out in a very different way today, something we think has never been done before the official historian says there is no record of the constitution being read on the house floor like we expect today it is, in many ways, a nod to the tea party 's influence that helped make john boehner speaker.

    >> if all members could raise their right hands.

    >> reporter: when all those hands went up --

    >> do you solemnly swear that you will support and defend the constitution of the united states --

    >> would you all please raise your right hand?

    >> reporter: hundreds of members of congress promised loyalty to the constitution.

    >> do you solemnly swear that you will support and defend the constitution of the united states against all enemies, foreign and domestic?

    >> reporter: today, republicans promised to get literal.

    >> a renewed focus on our constitution.

    >> reporter: that includes members taking shifts, reading allowed the more than 4500 words, plus all the amendments. among the first moves of the 112th congress --

    >> the yeas are 238, the pales in 188.

    >> reporter: house republicans cast a bunch of new rules. for example, members will now have to explain how their bills are backed up by authority in the constitution and bills must be online for three days before a vote.

    >> now, recognizing our roles under the constitution --

    >> reporter: democratic leader nancy pelosi cited the constitution, too, but the transfer of power was not completely serious.

    >> i now pass this gavel, which is larger than most gavels here, but the gavel of choice of mr. speaker boehner. i now pass this --

    >> reporter: pelosi herself had carried a giant ceremonial gavel for last year's health care reform vote. boehner aides would only describe his gavel as a gift from a constituent back home in ohio.

    >> that includes this gavel, which i accept cheerfully and gratefully, knowing that i am but its caretaker. after all, this is the people's house.

    >> reporter: and the new congress, led by john boehner , what has a flurry of things planned and today, they expect to take a vote that would with reduce the budget that run all the offices of members of congress and around here on capitol hill . meredith?

    >> all right, kelly o'donnell, thank

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