Tea Partiers and some of their congressional allies are warning that Republicans could see a 2006-style blowout in 2012 if they fail to deliver promised budget cuts, such as defunding the health care reform law.
The House GOP’s opening act on the continuing resolution has already rankled many Tea Partiers because they believe the $60 billion in cuts proposed by the leadership two weeks ago broke campaign promises.
Speaker John Boehner and the Republican leadership promised to deliver $100 billion in cuts last December, and the speaker repeated the promise last month at CPAC. But when the time came to vote on the conservative Republican Study Committee’s proposal that would have done just that, 92 Republicans, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, joined with 189 Democrats to kill the amendment.
“The thing is you don’t know that there is going to be a fight in the Senate, but when the Republicans can’t even do it themselves when they have a tremendous majority, we can’t say the perfect is the enemy of the good,” said Mark Meckler, national coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots. “That’s just pathetic.
“I can’t believe we are debating $100 billion; it’s a pittance, and it’s not even a down payment on our problem,” Meckler continued.
Meckler called the GOP leadership “disingenuous” and put them on notice that Tea Partiers would not forget their failures and warned them they could face serious primary challengers in 2012 if demands for deeper cuts are not met.
“Tea Partiers are going to be involved with Republican and with Democratic primaries all across the country,” Meckler said.
His warning echoes that of Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips who promised this week to find someone to mount a primary challenge against Boehner next year.
Freshman House Republican Tim Heulskamp told The Daily Caller the GOP caucus is committed to cutting $100 billion from the budget, but said he is concerned about a repeat of 2006 if the GOP does not show voters it is serious about spending reductions.
However, he expressed confidence in the Republican track record in the 112th Congress, noting the GOP has done what it said it would do and has made spending cuts a priority.
And the $4 billion in cuts found in the two-week continuing resolution that was signed into law by the president on Wednesday are a modest down payment on this pledge, he said.
Fellow freshman House Republican Allen West, who represents a deep-blue majority Democratic district, said the new Republican House majority has done more to cut spending in the first 58 days of the 112th Congress than the Democratic majority did in the first 58 days of the 111th Congress.
West compared the current fiscal situation to turning around an aircraft carrier, saying it will take a lot longer than the first 58 days of the current congressional session to turn around the nation’s fiscal mess.
And House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, defended the final number found in the larger continuing resolution that passed last month and still needs to be hammered out with the Senate and with the president, saying spending levels are headed in the right direction.
“Our goal was to go lower than ’08 levels, and personally I’m comfortable with going even lower than that,” Ryan said at a Wednesday breakfast with reporters. “The question is whether you can get it signed into law, and that’s where I think that it becomes open debate, but clearly we are setting the precedent provided this thing is signed into law ̶ which I think it will ̶ that we are going under 2010 levels.”
“Let’s focus on the big picture, which is trillions of dollars of debt that are oncoming and not tens of billions for the rest of this fiscal year,” Ryan continued. “We live in a divided government, and we are not going to be able to dictate the terms of everything by just controlling the House of Representatives.”
Meckler similarly tore into Republicans for not backing Iowa Rep. Steve King’s proposal to completely defund the health care reform law.
“I can’t believe they didn’t push hard enough on the King amendment that would have stripped out all of the funding that is already in there for the Obamacare legislation,” Meckler said. “We proposed an amendment that would have cut $109 billion from Obamacare, and the leadership fought against it. They promised, promised to defund Obamacare by any means necessary, and the majority of the American people supports the defunding of Obamacare.
“They had their chance, and they didn’t.”
He warned the GOP House leadership is wasting the political capital it built up over the past two years.
King told TheDC he has no intention of giving up on his quest to defund the law and shutoff the automatic $105.5 billion in appropriations. And he likewise expressed frustration with his inability to get language defunding the health care law into the original continuing resolution that passed last month.
“If we’d been able to get it on the floor, I have every confidence it would have passed,” King said. “We took that hill ̶ that hill being the no funding to Obamacare. And the two-week extension stepped away from that and ceded that hill and that neutral territory to the other side for two weeks.
“When you take that point off the negotiating table, it’s awfully hard to retake that hill.”
The congressman vows to vote against any future continuing resolution that does not defund the health care law and warns it will become increasingly difficult for Republicans to do the longer they wait.
Pollster Scott Rasmussen told TheDC what Republicans do with the continuing resolution will have less of an effect on whether they keep or enlarge their majorities in 2012 than who the GOP nominates for president.