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Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Tea party stays on the sidelines as Obama, Republicans in Congress tackle fiscal cliff - The ideas advocated by the tea party — which helped propel concerns about federal spending and borrowing to the forefront of the national debate and fuel 2010’s Republican sweep of the House — still resonate in the GOP.

From The Washington Post:

The tea party movement has been nearly invisible in the intensive lobbying campaign over the “fiscal cliff,” even as Congress and the White House debate the issues of government spending and national debt that are at the core of the movement’s identity.

In many ways, the tea party was made for this moment. The grass-roots opposition to President Obama’s agenda that arose in 2009 has been so focused on fiscal concerns that leaders once prevented speakers at tea party rallies from even discussing abortion and other social issues.

And in fact, it is the tea party that helped bring the country to this moment. The automatic spending cuts at the heart of the year-end fiscal cliff grew out of the tea party’s fierce campaign last year to slash federal budgets and cap government borrowing.

Yet as groups across the political spectrum seek to influence any deal to avert the cuts and tax increases set to kick in Jan. 1, the tea party has been unusually — and deliberately — quiet. Members still call and e-mail Congress but have held no rallies and done little lobbying.

When tea party leader Jenny Beth Martin recently journeyed to the Capitol from her Atlanta area home, for example, she did not bring with her the bus loads of tea party members who once descended on Washington to rally for fiscal restraint.

As she toured the offices of several Republican House members, Martin barely brought up the fiscal cliff negotiations that could chart the nation’s budgetary future, according to Martin and congressional aides.

Her focus instead? Fighting over spending at the state level.

“We’re sitting back’’ on the fiscal cliff, said Martin, co-founder of Tea Party Patriots, the nation’s largest tea party group. Republicans in Congress, she said, “have proven they’re not going to listen to us,’’ adding that House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) is a “cave man” for his willingness to consider tax increases.

Tea party activists say they feel despised by Democrats and ignored by Republicans, and they still resent the blame they received for last year’s debt ceiling crisis, in which tea-party backed lawmakers demanded deep spending cuts in return for increasing the federal borrowing limit and helped push the nation to the brink of default.

“We’re thinking, ‘instead of wasting our time with these people, maybe we should go home and actually enjoy our families for the holidays,’’ said Marianne Gasiecki, an Ohio tea party activist. “We’re saying, ‘You can’t blame us for this one.’ But they’ll blame us anyway. Someone has to be the scapegoat.’’

Unless members of Congress “are blind, deaf and dumb,’’ Gasiecki added, “there’s no way they could not have heard what’s been screamed at them for the past four years.’’

Indeed, the ideas advocated by the tea party — which helped propel concerns about federal spending and borrowing to the forefront of the national debate and fuel 2010’s Republican sweep of the House — still resonate in the GOP. An example, said conservative strategist Keith Appell, was the failure last week of Boehner’s “Plan B” legislation to avoid the fiscal cliff, which was doomed when conservative Republicans in the House declined to endorse a tax increase even on millionaires.

“The tea party vision for fiscal sanity is still very powerful in Washington,’’ said Appell, senior vice president at CRC Public Relations in Alexandria.

Michael Steel, a Boehner spokesman, said the speaker, “like virtually every House Republican, was elected with Tea Party support in 2010 and 2012 — and he deeply appreciates that support.”

“The (fiscal cliff) is obviously a massive debate about what our country’s fiscal future is going to look like, and you’re looking around going, ‘Where is the tea party?’’’ said Ned Ryun, president of American Majority, a political training institute allied with the movement. “Part of this is simply that some of the movement has disappeared.’’

That is a far cry from the tea party’s halcyon days, when members flocked to D.C. rallies against Obama’s health-care overhaul and what they considered excessive spending. During last year’s dispute over the debt ceiling, tea party members called for a government shutdown during a rally at the Capitol. The debate ultimately produced a deal to raise the borrowing limit but also set up automatic cuts, which are part of the fiscal cliff.

But soon after the Nov. 6 election, more than 100 Tea Party Patriots leaders and state coordinators gathered at a Hyatt hotel in Washington and chose a different strategy for the fiscal cliff. “We decided to treat Congress like grown-ups and say, ‘Fix it,’’’ said Gasiecki. “It’s like parents who have raised their kids well and step back and say, ‘Prove to us that you’ve been listening.’"


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