"As we work to reform our budget, Congress should also put some skin in the game. I agree with those Republican and Democratic members of Congress who've recently said that in these challenging days, we can't afford what are called earmarks," the president said.
The White House knows well that the issue pits Republicans against themselves. It will be the first of several areas where the president seeks out ways to build unusual coalitions inside Congress that peel some Republicans off from their leadership.
The new tea party members of Congress arrive at a time of intense attention on the issues of federal taxing and spending that they care about.
But, as the initial recommendations from the co-chairmen of Obama's deficit commission made clear, little consensus exists in either party over how to proceed.
The uncertainty provides an unprecedented opportunity for the new members of Congress to shape the debate in the coming months and years. Yet their influence will be strained by internal party tensions that will continue, as an unwieldy group of new members meets old ways of doing business.
ABC News' Mary Bruce contributed to this report.