Spending bill defeat sign that Tea Party will have influence beyond election

The defeat of a pork-laden $1.1 trillion “omnibus” spending bill in the Senate Thursday night was the first serious indication after the Nov. 2 election that the Tea Party movement has staying power and will be a force into 2011.

Some Republicans on Capitol Hill said Thursday night that GOP leadership played a pivotal role as well. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was said to have pressured key GOP lawmakers to stand firm against the legislation, though some in leadership said the conference was fairly united against it from the beginning.

What was agreed upon by most is that the same grassroots wave that propelled Republicans to a huge November win had just made its sting felt for the first time in the legislative arena.

“[It was] 100 percent grassroots … The American people took it down,” said John Hart, spokesman for Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican.

Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, agreed, though with a far less triumphant tone.

“Today’s maneuvers demonstrate that the House and Senate Republican leadership from here on out should be considered a wholly owned subsidiary of the Tea Party,” Manley said.

Brian Darling, who manages Senate relations for the conservative Heritage Foundation, laid success for the big GOP win at the feet of three Republican lawmakers who channeled Tea Party energy and ideals: Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, and Coburn.

“But for [them], the Omnibus would have passed,” Darling said, pointing to DeMint’s threat to have the entire bill read on the Senate floor, consuming nearly 40 hours, which was joined by McCain, who emerged Thursday as a high profile and vehement opponent of the bill.

It had been an odd two weeks until Reid, a Nevada Democrat, trudged to the floor late in the day and admitted that he did not have the votes to pass the omnibus, which would have funded the government for the rest of the fiscal year, through September.

Since last Monday, conservative Republicans had been divided, thrown for a loop by the tax deal hammered out between President Obama and congressional GOP leaders. The fact that it extended tax cuts was attractive to most conservatives, but the nearly $900 billion price tag concerned a good number as well.

Charles Krauthammer said it was horrible. Mitt Romney opposed it. Fiscal hawk legislators like Rep. Paul Ryan said it was the best deal they could get. And Coburn, who has railed against every unpaid for expenditure over the last year, kept largely quiet on the deal until the day of the vote when he offered an amendment to cut spending by $160 billion that was defeated, and then voted against the bill along with four other Republicans.

Most telling, Tea Party groups founded by less experienced political operatives and based outside Washington – such as Tea Party Patriots and Tea Party Nation – opposed the deal vehemently. But hard line conservative groups in D.C., such as FreedomWorks and Americans for Tax Reform, backed it.

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  • clw

    I know that liberals think that they are using a slur every time they utter the words “Tea Party”, and it probably is to THEIR base. They just don’t GET the fact that the Tea Party is really just a generic term for the silent majority of concerned Americans.

    I’ve noticed, since the mid-terms, that conservatives now OFTEN say in their response to questions, that their actions were “based on the mid-terms”, or they’ll say, “Americans told us they wanted…”, or “didn’t want”. I honestly, FINALLY, get the feeling that the American people focused ALL of their attention on pressuring our representatives to do OUR will, and they got it!

    At least conservatives did. The liberals in Washington saw the last two years as their opportunity to push THEIR agenda (stating the obvious, I know), but look how they crashed and burned. If they don’t learn from that and change their ways, the American people won’t put them in power again for a long, LONG time. We DON’T have short memories. We REMEMBER the dismal Carter years.

    Conservatives could ONLY do well to heed the voice of the Tea Party (average Americans) because it’s a force that allowed them to ABRUPTLY change the negative course of the past two years, and they are a force that can bring conservatives down too, if they don’t CONTINUE to listen to average Americans.

    • riseabove

      CLW, I can identify with your righteous indignation but I believe that even if the silent majority regains control of the White House, the House of Representatives and the Senate, the underlying issues won’t disappear.

      The gap between ideologies will widen and the pressure will increase until something snaps. Conservatives will eventually be forced to accept gay marriage, massive entitlements, open borders, immigration reform, universal healthcare, high taxes and lots of other things on their agenda….or spiral into a Civil War.

      They won’t settle down quietly and they certainly won’t go away.

      • clw

        I agree that if they go out, they’ll go out swinging, but I’m not so sure the things you noted WOULD come to pass. America is a STRONGLY center-right nation, and has been so for a VERY long time. Those things would have to be accomplished AGAINST the will of a majority of Americans. I guess some of it COULD happen against their will, (thru lawsuits/judges legislating from the bench), but if so, it will be a long, long time coming in my view. The Tea Psrty (IMO) brought an abrupt correction to this country’s governance in a BIG way in the mid-terms. To me, that shows that center-right Americans are still in control of the outcome.

    • craigiri

      >Tea Party is really just a generic term for the silent majority of concerned Americans.

      I don’t think you know how to count if you use the word majority!

      The Tea Party is the majority of REPUBLICANS or EX-REPUBLICANS who are very concerned because their heroes Bush/Cheney destroyed large parts of our economy, started wars and sucked away the money from the poor and middle class….depositing it into the accounts of the very wealthy.

      I can understand being pissed about that. I am. But I am not a member of the TP by any description….

      As long as the TP is undefined, you can claim it is all kinds of things. But take any particular place where the rubber meets the road…..such as polling on Palin (TP Hero, if she says so herself) vs. Obama, and you will see that “majority” is the same old 30 percent that still liked Bush on his way out (and still do today).

      Reality is tough…I know! But numbers do not lie. The TP is Southern, Republican and, in general, the same people who supported Bush. In other words, many are clueless and don’t understand who their real enemies are.

  • jaydickb

    So, the Republican party is now a wholly owned subsidiary of the Tea Party? Boy, that would be really good news, if it were only true. And, of course, the Democrats are not owned by anyone, not even the labor unions?

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  • rainmaker1145

    Ward is trying to paper over what the GOP leadership was willing to trade away and everyone knows it.