'World News' Political Insights: Tea Party Will Test GOP Unity

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"Most of them are the most normal, everyday people you've ever met. None of them have ever been involved in the political process before," Boehner, R-Ohio, told ABC News' Diane Sawyer on Thursday. "I think we as Americans ought to welcome that participation. I think it's going to reinvigorate our democracy. And be a really good thing for the country."

At the same time, Boehner made clear that Congress won't hold up an increase on the debt limit, though he said he will fight to see spending cuts before such a vote is held.

"We'll be ready to meet our obligations," Boehner said.

Boehner himself comes at the job as someone who, as a member of then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich's leadership team in 1995, saw first-hand the growing pains associated with a big crop of newcomers. Fifteen of the 74 freshman Republicans elected in 1994 did not win re-election just two years later.

Boehner, though a 20-year House veteran, first embraced tea party energy last March, just as it began to spread nationwide. He spoke at a series of tea party events, primarily in Washington and in his home state of Ohio, and met privately with several of the movement's leaders relatively early on.

Boehner's task will be to corral the fresh energy without seeing it turn against Republicans, as happened with some regularity during this year's primary season.

The White House, meanwhile, will be seeking out areas where it can divide Republicans against themselves, particularly in areas impacting the deficit and national debt.

Tea party activists have been explicit in saying they consider the new members to be "on probation." Their threat -- to harness the same energy that swept new members into office right back out if they stray from their promises -- doubles as the challenge confronting Boehner and his team.

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