HELENA -U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., drew prolonged, loud cheers and laughs in her speech Saturday night at a Republican dinner as she praised Rep. Denny Rehberg and tore into Democratic President Barack Obama and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Bachmann, a leading speaker on the Republican banquet circuit and founder of the House Tea Party Caucus, said the federal debt was "a heart-palpitating $8 trillion" when Pelosi, a California Democrat, became speaker of the House. It grew to $14 trillion in four years.
"There was a reason why we had to take the House of Representatives back," she said of the 2010 election. "We had to. We had to. And we did."
With Obama in the midst of his "reign of error," she said, the Congressional Budget Office projects that if the president is re-elected - "and by the way, that will not happen" - by the end of his term, the United States will be $20 trillion in debt.
Bachmann said she's confident that Republicans will change things, taking control of the Senate in 2012 with victories by candidates such as Rehberg and win back the presidency that year.
"Montana, I am telling you this: You have to elect Denny Rehberg your senator," she said. "You have to, because we have to have a conservative Senate in 2012.
A top priority for Republicans is to repeal the federal health care overhaul passed in 2010 by Congress and signed into law by Obama, she said.
"I take my first political breath every morning with one thought in mind - repeal Obamacare," Bachmann said. "That's my motivation in life. ... This bill is something else. It is the crown jewel of socialism. President Obama, and I'm willing to say it, ushered in socialism under his watch."
She criticized federal bailouts that began under Republican President George W. Bush and continued at a far greater level under Obama.
"So now we the federal government still own Chrysler and GM," she said. "We own the largest banks in America. We own the largest insurance company in America ...
"Then after that we bought lock, stock and barrel Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. These aren't just crazy aunts and uncles that you put up in your attic somewhere. These are largest secondary mortage insurance companies in America, which means the federal government today owns over 50 percent of all private mortgages in this country."
She also blasted Obama's environmental, national security and foreign policies
"My opinion is we can't shut this president down fast enough," Bachmann said to loud cheers.