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Bachmann books budget guru for first Tea Party Caucus meeting

WASHINGTON — Rep. Michele Bachmann has tabbed a respected budget analyst to be the guest expert for the first meeting of the House Tea Party Caucus this session.

Stan Collender is a partner at Qorvis Communications who writes a column on "Fiscal Fitness" for Roll Call and maintains the widely read (on Capitol Hill anyways) Capital Gains and Games blog.

Collender may be an unfamiliar name outside the Beltway, but within he's regarded as one of the finer experts in U.S. budget policy, with a penchant for frankness. Because of that, he's often quoted in the media (heck, last year he led a National Press Foundation briefing for reporters on how to wrap your head around the daunting federal budget process), and we've quoted him in this space before.

Bachmann, in a letter to her House colleagues, called Collender "a nationally recognized expert on the federal budget, to come and brief Members of the Tea Party Caucus on the current fiscal mess facing our country."

Bachmann has a track record of inviting experts to her seminars but unlike Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who spoke at Bachmann's inaugural constitutional law seminar, Collender doesn't easily fit inside an ideological box. Indeed, several of his published opinions might actually rankle those at Bachmann's meeting.

When asked by Business Week about a Tea Party-affiliated Republican freshman representative who said he's staunchly opposed to raising the debt ceiling (a position Bachmann has also taken), Collender replied that "Raising the ceiling is virtually inevitable.... The only question is: Who's going to blink first?"

And on the GOP's embrace of Ronald Reagan, he recently wrote: "My question is whether, in spite of the deification, Ronald Reagan would fit in with today's Republican Party as well it wants us to believe."

Bachmann told her colleagues in the invitation that she hopes the Tea Party Caucus "will serve as a venue for Members of Congress and Tea Party activists to share ideas and determine the best way to get America on a sound fiscal path that adheres to the Constitutional principles on which she was founded."

The first meeting of the Tea Party Caucus is set for February 17.

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