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Friday, July 19, 2024

Tea party extremism; buyer’s remorse

A Tea Party rally on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Harry Hamburg)

House Republicans rode the tea party tiger to power last fall. Now it’s turning on them, forcing party leaders to endure embarrassing delays and unwanted revisions to crucial debt-ceiling legislation.

This tiger did not change it stripes. When tea partyers emerged as a political phenomenon in 2009, they vowed to stand on principle and change the way Washington works. They’ve kept that promise despite some doubters’ predictions they would succumb to the get-along, go-along crowd once they reached Capitol Hill.

That fidelity is now threatening GOP unity and causing headaches for party leaders as they try to negotiate with Democrats in a divided government. With the 2012 campaigns cranking up, some Republicans are re-evaluating the fiery movement that fueled their sweeping victories in 2010.

House Speaker John Boehner‘s misreading of tea partyers’ doggedness this week forced his chagrined team to postpone votes twice on his debt-ceiling bill. Finally, on Friday, Boehner had to amend the bill in ways Democrats openly derided. The events proved “that while the tea party Republicans are a noisy and effective protest movement, they are unfit for governing,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.

Said Rep. Steven LaTourette, an Ohio Republican: “We’ve lost some leverage.”

Boehner’s original bill to raise the debt ceiling by Tuesday’s deadline was already doomed in the Democratic-controlled Senate, where talks of a possible final-hour bipartisan deal were under way. But the House’s tea party holdouts forced Boehner to push his bill even further to the right, prompting taunts that it wasn’t serious, let alone viable.

Boehner could not secure the votes he needed from conservatives until he accepted an unusual condition for a second debt-limit increase, which would be necessary in a few months. Both chambers of Congress first would have to approve a constitutional amendment requiring balanced budgets, which requires a two-thirds majority in both houses. Some conservatives have long dreamed of such a change. But leaders in both parties acknowledge it is politically unachievable.

Boehner’s original bill was already imperiled because it would tie the second debt-ceiling increase to huge mandatory spending cuts, which President Barack Obama rejected. The speaker’s allies said the tea partyers’ demands make it all the harder to argue that Democrats should seriously consider the House bill.

Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., said Democrats will “feel like they’ve got a lot more power and influence in this process right now.”

The political fractures are reaching into the GOP, and even the tea party movement itself. Some tea party-backed lawmakers embraced Boehner’s original bill, drawing fire from the movement’s most unyielding wings.

A group called The United West labeled four House Republicans “tea party defectors.” One of them was first-term Rep. Allen West of Florida, a highly visible favorite of many tea party factions.

The accusation angered conservative radio host Laura Ingraham, who brought West on her show and defended him. “He understands how to declare victory, even if that victory is incremental,” she said. West understands “the limits of one’s power when you control one house of Congress.”

West said, “One minute they’re saying I’m their tea party hero, and what, three or four days later. I’m a tea party defector? That kind of tea party schizophrenia, I’m not going to get involved in it.”

GOP Rep. Paul Broun of Georgia, who says he will not support a debt limit hike under any circumstances, defended the tea party movement.

“The tea party has been maligned unfairly,” Broun said in an interview. “It’s about limiting government according to what the Constitution says it should be.”

“This is truly a reflection of the strongest political force in America,” Broun said.

Even Democrats grudgingly acknowledge that the tea party has pushed national policy toward deeper spending cuts without tax increases. Obama for months insisted that higher tax revenues be part of a debt-reduction package, but Senate Democrats have dropped that bid.

The highly decentralized tea party movement was born amid the fiercely partisan fight that led to passage of Obama’s health care overhaul in 2010. At public forums throughout the nation, citizens sharply criticized the plan’s reach into private lives, including its requirement that everyone eventually buy health insurance.

The movement, which also decried federal bank bailouts and stimulus programs, played a huge role in last fall’s elections, when Republicans regained control of the House after four years in the minority.

Now, some establishment Republicans are wondering if they got more than they bargained for. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, for instance, strongly opposed the health care legislation, making common cause with the tea party. But this month the chamber swung solidly behind Boehner’s original debt-ceiling bill. It suffered embarrassment with all the other groups and individuals forced to swallow the tea partyers’ demands.

Republican campaign strategists are weighing the tea party’s valuable energy against the possibility that it might push the party away from mainstream politics, which appeal to crucial independent voters. A Pew Research poll found that 68 percent of American voters want lawmakers to compromise on the debt ceiling and default issue, even it means striking a deal they disagree with. Fewer than one in four said lawmakers should stand by their principles even if it leads to a default on U.S. obligations.

Veteran lawmakers and congressional staffers are struck by the faith — be it admirable or naïve — that many tea party advocates seem to have in what they consider the moral rightness of their ideas. Some GOP staffers privately roll their eyes at accounts of House members insisting that Senate Democrats will suddenly come to their senses and embrace the balanced budget agreement, even though those senators have criticized the proposal for years.

“I sure hope they don’t try to take out the balanced budget amendment in the Senate,” said Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga. He refused to vote for the House debt-ceiling bill until it was added.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., barely conceals his disdain for such thinking. The key question, Reid said in a speech Friday, is “will today’s Republicans break away from the shrill voice of the tea party and return to the Republican Party of Ronald Reagan?”

When a Democratic leader praises Reagan, it’s a sign of how profoundly the tea party movement has influenced the GOP.


Associated Press writers Alan Fram and Steven Ohlemacher contributed to this report.

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19 thoughts on “Tea party extremism; buyer’s remorse”

  1. I always love it when lamestream media refers to adhering to the Constitution as out of the mainstream. What does that say about so called “mainstream” politics?

    If they aren’t adhering to the Constitution, they aren’t a legal government of the United States and it is our right and our duty to remove them from power.

    • As always Woody, you are spot-on concerning the order of the day.

      There’s times we don’t hear from you for a bit; my concern is whether you are still “on station” or not…? : |

      Possibly you’ve simply been busy with the affairs of life. : )

      Carl Nemo **==

      • I’m prepping. I own two businesses and work a third job. I have two boys under 5. Between those activities there isn’t much time for internet browsing.

  2. I wonder if this means that future politicians will point to these Tea Party members and cry, “See what happens when we keep our campaign promises?”

  3. Tea Party members in the House don’t have to agree to get a bill through: Democrats just need to write a bill that all the Democrats and 47 Republicans will vote for, in a coalition of the sensible. Of course, House leadership has to let the bill actually get to a vote.

    But there are way more then 47 “Chamber of Commerce” Republicans, who would even vote for a one paragraph bill just to raise the debt ceiling to avoid default.

  4. I’d have to say that the so-called tea partiers, which began as an anti-tax, anti-Federal Reserve movement, made a big mistake getting in bed with the Republican Establishment and their assorted big money backers, including the dreaded Religious Right.

    What were you morons thinking?

        • Thanks Almandine for the “fun link” to the alleged “Moron Bothers” who in actuality represent the very genius of the American way of life and what makes it both great and survivable; I.E., unfettered freedom to enjoy that which is free to us all, the cosmos and nature about us without the unfettered shackles of government run amok.

          It was a thoroughly enjoyable link and I totally ascribe to this simpler, introspective lifestyle. Banjo’s are my favorite instrument along with truly inspirational “Blue Grass” music. Amen…!

          Carl Nemo **==

  5. I may not agree with them but they are doing exactly what they were elected to do. That is a breath of fresh air in the stench of D.C. So far they seem to be resisting all the arm twisting and have little room for compromising their principals.

  6. I think the GOP will be very sorry they brought in this Tea Party. For years, we watched our two-party system destroy much of what could have been some honest discussions even among just the voters. Today, it is slowly being disclosed that our nation is under a religious conversion attack. This is not new as far as the voters go but today we allowed the religious right to take over a large section of our House of Representatives.

    The plan within the religious leaders is to push the religious doctrine into the federal laws using the House and Senate as pushers. This is where we stand at this time.

    As a long time Christian, it was written in their church affiliations to get this control. The reason is that the world is coming to an end. Some complicated reasoning on this shows that Americans are not working for Jesus Christ and should be led into a Christian environment before the end.

    Is this like rounding up cats? Is the Christian doctrine better for the human species than individual choices? Looking down from heaven would appear to say yes. Are we willing to give our individual freedoms away to this heaven sky daddy? Of course it will be given to a human who claims to be closer to God than anyone else.

    Apparently the American voters want complete control from a government who at this time is nearly falling on its ass. We must not worry about money because we will be saved before the end.

    Well, folks; I will not comply. I woke up this morning after watching the whole sad mess on television last night and was actually glad to be as old as I am. I will miss the worst of the end of America. “Onward Christian Soldiers” is the new anthem for America.

    Trying for a revolution against this madness is impossible. I recognize the madness of this faith as I have carried a faith of individuality all my life. My faith has nothing to do with a sky daddy but with the core of American values coming from the individual American citizen.

    My faith is still strong but I realize I am in a growing minority. I found this faith of American individuality during and after WW2. I saw how the people at home gave up their food consumption so our soldiers could have the best meat and veggies. I gave up gas in the car so our soldiers could have their transportation guaranteed. We paid a 10% luxury tax to help pay for the war. Our spirit was high and our flags were on display.

    I for one will not transfer my love for America into a love for an occult ghost. My brain, raised in a Christian Family cannot live under this destructive movement hand made by some control freaks.

    50 years of my life has been a warning sign for the end of independence organized by any agency wandering around our nation. I had no fear that it would be the GOP who fell into the faith pit. I began to see much of this under the White House of President Bush 41 with his Global Control plans. It has grown like cancer since that time.

    It’s all about control………

    • Sandune:

      I agree that this is all about control. And oddly, it is the penchant for control that very well might lead to an immersion in chaos.

      Most people snicker or deny any possibility of chaos because it does not dovetail with their dreams.

      As the confederacy was winding down, Jefferson Davis became frustrated with those in politics kept demanding a purity that would not allow for success in the Civil War. In frustration, Davis said, “If there is ever a tombstone for the confederacy, let it read, “Died of A Theory.””

      And now the same can sadly be borrowed to describe the current situation. There is an ideological purity that must be applied to ANYTHING in the House. Ideological purity is a potent toxin, and it is doing a lot of damage right now. If this republic should fail, I’m not sure what epitath would be put on its tombstone.

      No mention will be made of course to the rest of the nation (and world) who refused to see the light.

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