Tea Party Picks Principle over Fiscal Peril
Policy + Politics

Tea Party Picks Principle over Fiscal Peril

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Even if we get to the brink of default on our government debt, members of the Tea Party say the current budget standoff is more about standing tough against Obamacare and its burdensome costs. Their bottom line – principle over peril.   

“We are seeing many people whose health insurance costs are going up,” said Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder and national coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots, one of the largest groups in the country, in an interview Friday afternoon. “These people don’t have the same health insurance they had a few months ago. They’re losing hours of work. We don’t want to spend our money on a law that’s doing this to people.”


When the Tea Party sprang up a few years ago, its goal was to hold representatives accountable for shrinking the government, lowering taxes, fixing the country’s debt and deficit. Yet the Tea Party – which they say numbers 35 million – is willing to set all that aside. “We just do not want Obamacare to be paid for with our tax money,” said Martin. “Especially when we have unions saying this law will shatter the 40-hour work week.”

Even if we approach default on our government debt? “The House passed the Full Faith and Credit Act and put that into the continuing resolution – the Senate stripped it out,” said Martin. “I think it’s a shame that the Senate is willing to put the full faith and credit of America at risk. We think the interest on our debt should be paid so we don’t have to risk default.”

Here’s more of the interview:

MM:  Why is it a good thing for Congress to prevent a vote on a clean CR?

Jenny Beth Martin (JBM):  Why is it that the Senate and the president refuse to listen to the American people? The majority of Americans never wanted this law in the first place. That’s why the House is right now controlled by Republicans who have pledged to repeal this law.

MM:  Do you believe that the GOP senators last week who voted for cloture on the CR voted for Obamacare?

JBM:  We were saying, 'Don’t vote for cloture.' That was our position on that vote last week.

MM:  House Speaker John Boehner said on Friday, ‘This is not some damn game,’ that it’s not about winning or losing. Yet both sides seem intent on wresting victory at all costs. How do you see this being resolved?

JBM:  It’s very important that all elected representatives, regardless of party, listen to what Americans are saying. In almost every poll over the past four years the majority of Americans said they did not want Obamacare to be the law. Regardless of party affiliation, people in Washington need to understand that they need to listen to what the American people are saying.


MM:  Are you saying this isn’t about the next elections – that it’s not about positioning for 2014 or for 2016?

JBM:  We have said repeatedly this isn’t about the next election for us – it’s about the principles at stake. When key votes come up it’s about listening to Americans and doing what’s right for America. The right thing for America is to fund the rest of the government. The Senate needs to reopen the government and not fund Obamacare. It has very harmful and unintended consequences and we can’t allow this to continue – it’s going to continue to harm the American people. 

MM:  How, specifically?

JBM:  Doctors are quitting. People can’t see the same doctors. They’re losing insurance or it’s costing them more. Some 20,000 employees at Home Depot are going to lose the health insurance they had. The spouses of UBS employees no longer have the same health insurance.

MM:  The Tea Party, then, sees the shutdown as the price to pay for standing up to Obamacare? 

JBM:  We never wanted a government shutdown. We want the portions of the government where we can find agreement to be reopened. We want Washington to pay for Veterans Affairs, for the National Guard and reserves, the National Institutes of Health – where we can find agreement, let’s get those open.


MM:  The piecemeal approach, however, is going over like a lead balloon in the Senate. The American people are getting fed up. How will this play out?  

JBM:  It’s a frustrating process. But when Obamacare is costing people jobs, their ability to provide for their family, their health insurance – we have to pay attention. That’s frustrating as well. It’s the most frustrating to me that the Senate Democrats and the president are unwilling to budge and negotiate one centimeter. Yet the president has issued waivers to big business, exempted Congress and staff from Obamacare – so he’s willing to do that but not willing to take care of the American people. That’s wrong.

MM:  Is the Tea Party growing in numbers again, or is just that people are fired up by the crisis and are more visible again?

JBM:  The IRS targeting of Tea Party groups had a silencing affect. People told us, ‘I can’t come to meetings anymore, I have to work and make a living, and the IRS may come and audit me.’ The IRS is a very powerful and much-feared agency. Now that the scandal has seen the light of day, more people have the courage to speak out again and exercise their First Amendment rights. Tea Party groups have also learned to better express their grievances with government and to effect the political process. It doesn’t always have to be a response to crisis. The movement has grown and matured.