The Tea Party has taken off the gloves and is ready for a bare knuckle fight – putting new pressure on both parties, including House Speaker John Boehner, R-Oh., for deeper spending cuts, even if it means a government shutdown.“If liberals in the Senate would rather play political games and shut down the government instead of making a small down payment on fiscal discipline and reform, I say, shut it down,” said Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., at a Tea Party rally on Capitol Hill on Thursday. “Nobody wants a shutdown, but if we don’t take a stand we’re going to shut down the future for our children and grandchildren.”
The grassroots organization that helped Republicans take over the House last November reminded the 87 GOP freshmen to make good on their campaign promise to cut $100 billion from the federal budget. “Some have called that draconian,” said Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, which sponsored the rally. “Some have called that extreme. To put it in perspective, we’re calling for a cut of 2.6 cents out of every dollar of spending.”
Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-MN., leader of the Tea Party caucus, and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., were among the 24 speakers at the two-hour “Continuing Resolution Revolution” rally. The event attracted several hundred activists from around the country, despite the chilly weather and light rain. Some enthusiasts carried signs that read, “Balance the damn budget already.” Another read, “Keep your promises: $100 billion.”
Although the conservatives mostly took shots at the Democratic Party for not passing a budget, they also heightened the pressure on Republicans to stand firm on the spending package. House Speaker Boehner said at a news conference on Thursday that Republicans "can't impose our will on another [government] body when it comes to legislation to cut tens of billions in spending. “All we can do is fight for all of the spending cuts that we can get an agreement to,” said Boehner. He denied suggestions that he’s already agreed to discuss a compromise that would jettison nearly half of the $61 billion in cuts passed by the House a month ago.
Even though budget negotiations were brought to life again on Wednesday after falling flat for a week, the Tea Party made clear they were impatient with politicians’ handling of the budget and would resist compromise. Their call for deeper cuts, they said, was just the beginning.
“What we want to see is a true fight,” said Michele Bachmann. “We truly want to cut government spending.”
Their demand for $100 billion in cuts comes as the White House and Senate Democrats are trying to seal a deal with the GOP. On Wednesday night Vice President Joe Biden and other Democrats said they would agree to about $33 billion in cuts to fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends in September. The current spending bill expires on April 8. If a compromise isn’t met, the government could partially shut down. But the $33 billion is not enough for conservatives. “It’s unacceptable,” said Rep. Allen West of Florida. “We have a debt and deficit that will lead to a fiscal Armageddon.”
Many activists didn’t flinch at the idea of a government shutdown. Throughout the rally they shouted, “Cut it or shut it!” and “We want less.” Dale McCoy of Pittsburgh came to Washington, D.C., on a bus with 30 other Tea Partiers for Thursday’s event and said he supports a shutdown. “The time has come for drastic action,” McCoy said. “The spending cuts they are contemplating right now are ridiculous. They will not help us in the long run. We need real cuts. Republicans promised us $100 billion.”
Senate Democrats have tried a divide-and-conquer technique over the last couple of weeks, seeking to illuminate the divisions within the Republican House caucus. They’ve called on Boehner to abandon the Tea Party and resume budget negotiations.
As Democrats accuse Republican congressional leaders of being co-opted by the Tea Party in budget negotiations, a new University of Washington poll shows that half of all conservative voters support the movement.
While the rally’s message was about a no-compromise stance on budget cuts, the group also called for defunding the health care law and Planned Parenthood, one of the so-called “policy riders” in the spending package.
On Friday the House will take up a bill aimed at preventing a shutdown in the event that the Senate doesn’t pass a spending bill by April 8. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R., Va., said that if the Senate didn’t act, HR1 – the bill number for the House-passed legislation – would become the law of the land.
Republicans Promise at Tea Party Rally to Stand Firm on Spending (Business Week)
Tea Party Rally to Congress: Spending Cuts Aren’t Deep Enough (Christian Science Monitor)
Tea Party Rallies Near U.S. Capitol to Keep Pressure for Spending Cuts on GOP (NPR)