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Top House Republican downplays Bachmann SOTU response

From NBC’s Shawna Thomas and Carrie Dann
Tea Party favorite Michele Bachmann may be delivering a speech after President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address tomorrow, but a top House Republican was careful on Monday to emphasize that hers is not the GOP-sanctioned response.

"Paul Ryan's giving the official Republican response,” said Majority Leader Eric Cantor at a pen-and-pad briefing with reporters. He added that Bachmann will have an opinion about what the president has to say "just as the other 534 members of the House and Senate [are going to."]

Bachmann’s response, which is sponsored by the Tea Party Express, will be broadcast online, while Ryan’s remarks will be carried by major television networks.

Per a House leadership aide, Ryan is expected to focus on spending cuts – a message underscored by the fact that he’ll deliver his remarks from the committee room of the budget panel he now chairs.

Asked what he hopes to hear from the president on Tuesday night, Cantor reiterated his message from his appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press over the weekend.

"The question is, is he going to decouple himself from what we have seen over the last two years and what he has been selling? Is he going to continue to sell that ... or will there be a new direction."  Cantor said. "And I think that the success of this Congress will rest on that question as will, frankly, the outcome of the election in November 2012."

While Republicans and Democrats continue to pair off with bipartisan “dates” to sit with during the president’s speech, it’s unclear where exactly Rep. Cantor will end up. An initial plan for Cantor to be seated next to his Democratic predecessor, Rep. Steny Hoyer, appears to be up in the air now as members of the House leadership teams hammer out their exact seating arrangements.