Tea Party makes a quick mark in Congress

WASHINGTON Fri Feb 11, 2011 2:17pm EST

With tea bags hanging from her hat, Tea Party member Martha Stamp of Wakefield, Rhode Island, attends the 38th annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington February 10, 2011. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

With tea bags hanging from her hat, Tea Party member Martha Stamp of Wakefield, Rhode Island, attends the 38th annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington February 10, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Tea Party conservatives -- those budget-cutting, anti-establishment activists who shook up the Republican Party last year -- have a message for congressional leaders: We weren't kidding.

The Tea Party won its first big victory in Congress on Thursday, forcing House of Representatives Republican leaders to make deeper spending cuts than they planned and setting up a showdown with the White House and Democratic-led Senate.

Earlier in the week, Republican leaders suffered a series of setbacks in House floor votes after a rebellion by the Tea Party members who helped carry them to a majority in November's elections.

The events highlighted the potency of the anti-authoritarian Tea Party movement, and underlined the difficulties House Republican leaders face in controlling their new ideologically driven members.

"The real fight here is between Republicans and Republicans, not Republicans and Democrats," said budget expert Stan Collender, a former congressional staffer.

"The question is at what point will the Tea Party folks be satisfied? I don't think anybody can tell that yet."

On Thursday, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, a Republican, agreed to rip up his spending plan and deepen the proposed cuts in a victory for fiscal conservatives aligned with the Tea Party.

Rogers had warned the deeper cuts, which meet a Republican campaign promise to trim $100 billion from the budget that President Barack Obama proposed last year, could force airport closures, layoffs at the FBI and other harsh disruptions.

The cuts demanded by conservatives were a rebuke to House leaders and rising Republican star Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, who endorsed a more gradual approach.

But the Tea Party elected dozens of new members to Congress on promises of limiting government and cutting spending, and fiscal conservatives in the House said the deeper cuts were a necessary "culture change."

"In just six weeks, we have already dramatically changed the conversation in Washington. Instead of more spending and more interference, Congress is actually thinking about how to rein in spending and encourage private enterprise," said Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan.

COLLISION COURSE

The move set Republicans on a collision course with Obama and his fellow Democrats as they try to pass a spending plan for the rest of this fiscal year before a March 4 deadline.

Senate Democrats are likely to propose extending current funding levels at least on a temporary basis, and with Tea Party conservatives in no mood to compromise the threat could grow of a cut-off of funds forcing a government shutdown.

"They are blindly swinging a meat ax to the budget when they should be using a scalpel. Some of these House Republicans won't be satisfied with anything less than a shutdown of the government," Democratic Senator Charles Schumer said.

The willingness of newly empowered conservatives to buck their leaders was evident earlier in the week during two embarrassing setbacks on the House floor on legislation that Republicans leaders had felt was noncontroversial and would pass easily.

"I think what they are finding out it that it is easier to talk about cutting than it is to actually do it," House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said.

In the face of the Tea Party's power, Republican leaders in Congress and the party's potential candidates in the 2012 presidential election have gone out of their way to praise the movement.

"Today it's the Tea Party calling us to our senses," Republican House Speaker John Boehner told a gathering of conservatives in Washington on Thursday night, shortly after the spending decision.

(Additional reporting by Andy Sullivan and Thomas Ferraro; Editing by Vicki Allen)

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Comments (7)
DrJJJJ wrote:
Our national debt is now over 100% of GDP and 25% of total world debt!! Doesn’t include the trillions in IOUs from unfunded entitlements, deficits for a decade, massive state problems, loan defaults, etc etc etc! We have a moral obligation to the world and our kids to make deep spending cuts now and we’ll have to rasie taxes too-we’ve waited too long! Big government and poor morals/ethics are behind this mess! $100Billion/yr in cuts is less than 30 days deficit spending folks!! If not now, when and why wait!! Waiting for another revenue bubble-snowballs chance in hell-do the math or take a basic math class if you can’t! KEEP SAYING NO! It’s better than mass civil unrest in the streets we’ll soon experience if a you doubt and THANKS-YOU’RE OUR FINEST!

Feb 11, 2011 2:40pm EST  --  Report as abuse
surfinStevePi wrote:
The only kind of tea bagging that hag could ever get.

Feb 11, 2011 2:49pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Texasoil wrote:
DrJJJ you forgot to add that 100 billion is only 25 days of interest payments on our debt.
As far as a shut down lets do it. Clinton did back in 96 and we got a balance budget, welfare reform, and the democrats spending spree stopped. And I say Clinton because he wouldn’t sign the budget bill because it didn’t have every thing in it he wanted. The republicans paid the price but this time it will be different. Back then the liberal media controlled the press so the republicans got the blame. But not this time. If obama or the democrat controlled senate does not pass the budget they will get the blame. The majority of America wants to reduce spending and pay down on our debt and we have a new freshmen class that is holding it ground right now. It is a start but a good day in America.

Feb 11, 2011 3:16pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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