It looks like the honeymoon between tea partyers and Republicans is over as some cracks are starting to show in a relationship that led to a takeover of the House of Representatives and gains in the Senate:
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!!”
The proposal to extend the Bush-era tax rates will proceed.
The Senate reached the 60 votes needed to move forward with President Obama’s $858 billion plan to extend the current income tax rates Monday afternoon. It ultimately passed 83-15.
The measure would extend the Bush-era tax rates for two years in return for a 13-month extension of federal unemployment benefits. The package also will set the estate tax rate at 35 percent for assets beyond $5 million.
Five Republicans, nine Democrats and one independent have cast dissenting votes, including Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, who spent more than eight hours on the Senate floor last Friday railing against the deal. Nevada Sen. John Ensign, who joined Republicans Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions and Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio to vote against cloture, has said he opposes the measure because the unemployment benefits in the package are not paid for.
A slate of liberal Democrats who have staunchly supported a tax increase for the wealthy also supported the vote to move toward final passage. New York Sen. Charles Schumer, Michigan Sen. Deborah Stabenow and Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, all fierce opponents of the Bush tax rates, cast a “yea” vote.
While some Republicans, such as Senator-elect Mike Lee of Utah, seem serious about taking strong stands on spending, Steve Chapman warns us not to count on them to back up their rhetoric during the mid-term election:
Republicans have had multiple opportunities to put their words into deeds, and each time they’ve declined. The first was with President Ronald Reagan, under whom the federal budget grew by 22 percent, adjusted for inflation. Though he often preached the virtue of a balanced budget, he never actually proposed one.
The GOP got another chance in 1994, when it gained control of Congress. After vowing to get rid of the departments of education and energy, Republicans left them alone. They failed to abolish a single important program.
They did force President Bill Clinton to cooperate in balancing the budget. But even though the end of the Cold War allowed cuts in defense appropriations, total federal spending grew faster than inflation.
Then there was President George W. Bush, who in his new memoir, Decision Points, claims to have been a staunch budget disciplinarian—which is like Kim Kardashian claiming to be publicity-shy.
“My administration’s ratios of spend-to-GDP, taxes-to-GDP, deficit-to-GDP, and debt to GDP are all lower than the averages of the past three decades—and, in most cases, below the averages of my recent predecessors,” he asserts.
This brings to mind the old jibe about his father: He was born on third base and thought he hit a triple. When Bush the Younger arrived, federal spending was at the lowest level, as a share of GDP, since 1966, and the budget had a surplus.
Congratulations to The Liberty Papers for five years of fantastic blogging and coverage of the liberty movement. Brad Warbiany has posted a list of the top 10 posts at TLP over the last five years (my post, “On Tea Parties and Republican hypocrisy,” made the cut).
Although I don’t write there anymore, at least not regularly, TLP is still a daily read for me. It should be for you, too.
Here is a great editorial out of the St. Paul Pioneer Press on why the tea party movement should turn its it attention toward farm subsidies:
The stakes really are not very large, about $15 billion to $20 billion per year for the U.S. as a whole. Some $10 billion to $15 billion is in cash payments to farmers, including land rental under the Conservation Reserve Program. Another $5 billion or more goes into subsidized crop insurance.
For Minnesota, direct payments in 2009 came to $852 million, of which $114 million was for CRP acres. Overall, our state came fifth in national rankings. Neighboring states also placed high, with Iowa second, North Dakota sixth, South Dakota ninth and Wisconsin 11th.
Murray County in southwest Minnesota, where I grew up and own farmland, got $15 million, a typical amount for the uniform rectangular counties across the southern part of the state.
These sound like big sums, but relative to total cash flows in farming, especially with growth in Asia propelling crop prices higher, they no longer are that important. The tragedy is that relative to the cost to the Treasury, they do little good for anyone.
Compared with an annual budget deficit of $1 trillion, $15 billion or $20 billion saved by complete elimination of farm payments is a drop in the bucket. But so are many other programs dear to the heart of one interest group or another.
That is the point. If the tea party adherents in the new Congress are not able to completely chop out entire programs like this, their movement will quickly become a debacle, economically and politically. Committed tea party members will be bitterly disappointed by the realities of Washington, just as true believers in Supply Side economics like Reagan Budget Director David Stockman were back in 1982.
House Republicans in the 112th Congress approved a ban on earmarks Thursday morning.
As expected, the soon-to-be majority party in the House extended the ban they adopted earlier this year.
Incoming freshman and TV reality star Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) offered the ban in a closed-door session with the GOP conference of more than 240 members.
Speaker-designate John Boehner (R-Ohio) applauded his conference.
In a statement, Boehner said “earmarks have become a symbol of a Congress that has broken faith with the people. This earmark ban shows the American people we are listening and we are dead serious about ending business as usual in Washington. I applaud Rep.-elect Duffy for his leadership on this critical issue. He and the rest of his historic class of House freshmen are here because Washington Democrats refused to listen to the American people and stop the spending binge that threatens our children’s futures.”
By the way, extension of the moratorium was passed unanimosly.
There had been some question back in August whether House Republicans would keep their moratorium in place, which was enacted earlier in the year, if they took control. But thanks to a grassroots push for members in both chambers to stay away from pet projects as a sign that they were serious about cutting spending.
Yesterday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) criticized Senator-elect Rand Paul (R-KY) for his calls to cut defense spending:
McCain, speaking Monday at an event sponsored by the Foreign Policy Initiative in Washington, D.C., was asked whether he thought that support for the war on terrorism might be eroding within the GOP.
“I worry about it, and I worry a lot,” McCain said. “Because throughout the history of the Republican Party in modern times there’s two wings: the isolationist wing manifested before World War II and at other times; and the internationalist side.
“So I think there are going to be some tensions within our party,” he said.
McCain singled out incoming Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), son of Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), who is known for his non-interventionist stance on foreign policy. The younger Paul, McCain said, has already talked about cuts to defense spending, causing the senior Republican to worry.
“I don’t know the incoming Senator Rand Paul – I respect him and admire his victory – but already he has talked about withdrawals, cuts in defense, etcetera, and a number of others are” as well, said McCain.
The Arizona senator also said he had “no doubt” about the sincerity of Paul and others to fight for spending cuts, saying he worried that such an aggressive stance could be justified on protectionist and isolationist grounds.
While I am as hardcore an advocate for free trade as there is, cuts to defense spending are not isolationist, and they are certainly not protectionist. Like McCain, I do worry that the populist streak in among conservatives and tea partyers could be taken as anti-trade. But his concerns about Rand Paul are unfounded.
In what is a win for the tea party movement and fiscal conservatives, Senate Republicans agreed to a two year moratorium on earmarks yesterday:
Senate Republicans voted Tuesday to abandon their use of earmarks in the new Congress, a move setting up an unusual alliance with the White House and exerting pressure on reluctant Democratic lawmakers to follow suit.
The vote by Senate Republican represented an internal party decision. But along with a similar step expected today by counterparts in the House, it provided an early example of the influence of the tea party and the rising conservative movement that fueled the mid-term electoral wave.
I’m unsure of the tally on this, our last count showed 33 members of the Republican caucus in favor of the moratorium and five opposed.
A couple of Senate Democrats, Mark Udall of Colorado and Claire McCaskill of Missouri, are will join Republican efforts to bring a vote on banning the practice to the floor of the chamber as early as today.
McCaskill has been critical of earmarking for some time, and yesterday she joined Pat Toomey, the Senator-elect from Pennsylvania, in calling for an end to earmarks.
Several tea party organizations and GOProud are encouraging the GOP to stay away from social issues in the upcoming Congress:
In a letter to be released Monday, the group GOProud and leaders from groups like the Tea Party Patriots and the New American Patriots, will urge Republicans in the House and Senate to keep their focus on shrinking the government.
“On behalf of limited-government conservatives everywhere, we write to urge you and your colleagues in Washington to put forward a legislative agenda in the next Congress that reflects the principles of the Tea Party movement,” they write to presumptive House Speaker John Boehner and Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell in an advance copy provided to POLITICO. “This election was not a mandate for the Republican Party, nor was it a mandate to act on any social issue.”
The letter’s signatories range from GOProud’s co-founder and Chairman Christopher Barron — a member of a group encouraging Dick Cheney to run for president — to Tea Party leaders with no particular interest in the gay rights movement.
As of Sunday evening, the letter had 17 signatories. They include tea party organizers, conservative activists and media personalities from across the country, including radio host Tammy Bruce, bloggers Bruce Carroll, Dan Blatt and Doug Welch, and various local coordinators for the Tea Party Patriots and other tea party groups.
“When they were out in the Boston Harbor, they weren’t arguing about who was gay or who was having an abortion,” said Ralph King, a letter signatory who is a Tea Party Patriots national leadership council member, as well as an Ohio co-coordinator.
Supporters of Sen. Jim DeMint’s proposal to impose an earmark moratorium on Senate Republicans (what he calls a test on whether or not the GOP got the message that voters sent two weeks ago) received welcome news yesterday as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) reversed course, deciding to back the plan:
I have seen a lot of elections in my life, but I have never seen an election like the one we had earlier this month. The 2010 midterm election was a “change” election the likes of which I have never seen, and the change that people want, above all, is right here in Washington.
Most Americans are deeply unhappy with their government, more so than at any other time in decades. And after the way lawmakers have done business up here over the last couple of years, it’s easy to see why. But it’s not enough to point out the faults of the party in power. Americans want change, not mere criticism. And that means that all of us in Washington need to get serious about changing the way we do business, even on things we have defended in the past, perhaps for good reason.
If the voters express themselves clearly and unequivocally on an issue, it’s not enough to persist in doing the opposite on the grounds that “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” That’s what elections are all about, after all. And if this election has shown us anything, it’s that Americans know the difference between talking about change, and actually delivering on it.