Washington, DC—Jon Summers, spokesman for Nevada Senator Harry Reid, released the following statement in response to reports that Republican leaders are facing pressure from Tea Party activists to move even farther to the right:
“Republicans appear to have set a land-speed record for losing the trust of the activists who helped elect them. Now, running scared, Republicans have decided their next move should be to appease the extremists in their party, no matter who it hurts. From their ill-advised plan to shut down the government to rolling back laws that will save seniors $1,800 on prescription drugs, Republicans are all too eager to put the tea party’s interests ahead of what’s best for our country.”
Key point: “The Republicans, frankly, have been a disaster,” [Tea Party leader] Mr. Meckler said. “They stood strong on some things, but the only reason they stood strong is because we stood behind them with a big stick… But Judson Phillips, the founder of Tea Party Nation, a social-networking Web site, declared after the approval of the arms-control treaty that “the G.O.P. has caved.”
January 1, 2011
Tea Party Activists Angry at G.O.P. Leaders
By KATE ZERNIKE
As Tea Party politicians prepare to take their seats when the 112th Congress convenes this week, they are already taking issue with Republicans for failing to hold the line against the flurry of legislation enacted in the waning weeks of Democratic control of the House of Representatives and for not giving some candidates backed by Tea Party groups powerful leadership positions.
Just a month ago, Tea Party leaders were celebrating their movement’s victories in the midterm elections. But as Congress wrapped up an unusually productive lame-duck session last month, those same Tea Party leaders were lamenting that Washington behaved as if it barely noticed that American voters had repudiated the political establishment.
In their final days controlling the House, Democrats succeeded in passing legislation that Tea Party leaders opposed, including a bill to cover the cost of medical care for rescue workers at the site of the World Trade Center attacks, an arms-control treaty with Russia, a food safety bill and a repeal of the ban on gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military.
“Do I think that they’ve recognized what happened on Election Day? I would say decisively no,” said Mark Meckler, a co-founder of Tea Party Patriots, which sent its members an alert last month urging them to call their representatives to urge them to “stop now and go home!!”
“We sent them a message that we expect them to go home and come back newly constituted and do something different,” Mr. Meckler said. “For them to legislate when they’ve collectively lost their mandate just shows the arrogance of the ruling elite. I can’t imagine being repudiated in the way they were and then coming back and saying ‘Now that we’ve been repudiated, let’s go pass some legislation.’ ”
“I’m surprised by how blatant it was,” he added.
But Tea Party activists did not reserve their criticism for Democrats. “The Republicans, frankly, have been a disaster,” Mr. Meckler said. “They stood strong on some things, but the only reason they stood strong is because we stood behind them with a big stick.”
Still, the Tea Party could point to some impact already. Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, who will become House speaker when the Republicans assume the majority, has proposed new procedural rules that acknowledge Tea Party demands. House members will not be able to introduce a bill or a joint resolution without “a statement citing as specifically as practicable the power or powers granted to Congress in the Constitution to enact it.”
This was a leading demand of the Contract From America, a Tea Party manifesto that was issued as a prelude to the midterm elections. Proposed legislation will have to be posted online for three days before any vote, reflecting Tea Party demands for greater transparency.
More ceremonially, the rules call for the Constitution to be read aloud on the House floor when the session opens.
Tea Party pressure prevailed in blocking the Senate from passing a $1.2 trillion spending bill and a measure that would have created a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants.
But Judson Phillips, the founder of Tea Party Nation, a social-networking Web site, declared after the approval of the arms-control treaty that “the G.O.P. has caved.”
Mr. Phillips, too, had urged his members to inundate their lawmakers with phone calls, e-mails and faxes urging them to stop considering legislation. “Give them no rest until they are out of town,” he wrote.
Tea Party leaders scoffed at the Republicans’ greatest victory from the lame-duck session — the extension of the Bush tax cuts as part of a compromise with the White House. Instead, Tea Party leaders complained that Republicans had abandoned a push for a full repeal of the estate tax.
Mr. Phillips said the tax cuts were more accurately described as “maintaining the status quo” because the lower rates had been in place for several years.
Despite its victories in November — more than 40 candidates supported by the Tea Party were elected to the House and Senate — the Tea Party lost battles for important leadership positions. Tea Party Patriots, for instance, had backed Representative Jack Kingston of Georgia to be chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee. Mr. Meckler and Jenny Beth Martin, also a co-founder of Tea Party Patriots, criticized Republicans for choosing Representative Harold Rogers of Kentucky instead, saying he was likely “to continue the big-spending, pork-barrel ways that lost Republicans the majority four years ago.”
In an opinion article on Politico, the two also criticized Republican leaders for choosing Representative Fred Upton of Michigan to lead the Energy and Commerce Committee, saying the choice “indicated they are not serious about expanding the nation’s energy-producing capability” through expanded oil drilling and a relaxation of regulations on nuclear power and coal.
The collapse of the spending bill, which would have financed government agencies through September, also means that the next Congress will have an almost immediate effect on decisions about government spending. Under a stopgap measure, the current Congress extended financing for government agencies until only March.
Incoming Tea Party lawmakers said they would push for drastic cuts to federal agencies whose functions they believe would be better handled at the state level, like theDepartment of Education.
Mike Lee, a senator-elect from Utah who had Tea Party support and defeated an incumbent Republican, Robert F. Bennett, said that he, along with other incoming senators, had signed letters to Senate Democrats asking them to delay voting on the arms-control treaty until the new Congress was seated. Mr. Lee was disappointed that the Senate approved the treaty anyway.
Still, he said he believed that the vote to extend the Bush tax cuts signaled that Congress had heard the demands of the Tea Party in the midterm elections.
“This changes by degrees,” Mr. Lee said. “As long as you have a Democratic president and a Democratic-controlled Senate, I don’t think there are many people who are expecting that the government’s going to be transformed overnight into something in the image of the Tea Party. That would be delusional.”