Will The Tea Party Buy In, or Force Others to Spend?
Yesterday, in a 234-190 vote, the House passed the Cut, Cap and Balance Act. It now goes to the Senate for approval, where Senate Democrats, led by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) have already stated that they will not vote for the legislation.
Nevermind the Senate Democrats. They say no to many things - not only this, but also no to passing a budget of the their own in the last 800+ days. But while Democrats may be needed in the Senate to get a plan in place, and to the president's desk, all members of Congress have to accept that their plans have to get the approval of the Tea Party.
Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) did not vote for the Cut Cap and Balance Act. As he stated in a press release:
“I gave my word to my constituents in Georgia and to the rest of the American people that I would not vote for any bill that increases the debt limit. Although the Cut, Cap, and Balance bill is a step in the right direction, it still raises the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion, and we simply cannot afford it.
Broun owes his election victory to the Tea Party, and his statement expresses the sentiment of many Tea Party members. (He is also a member of the Tea Party Caucus.) The debt ceiling is unsustainable, and even tax cuts and spending cuts are not enough to warrant a raise in the debt ceiling. As many in the Tea Party see it, the raising of the debt ceiling is a self fulfilling prohpecy, which has no end in sight. Now is the time to take the tough measures, and we must end the idea that we can save ourselves now by placing added debt on unborn generations.
Fellow Tea Party Caucus member, and presidential candidate, Michele Bachmann (R-MN) voted for the Cut, Cap and Balance Act with the proviso that candidates agree to a complete repeal and defund of Obama. From her statement:
"However, in signing this pledge I'm also adding an additional line. In addition to cutting spending this year-not out into the future but this year-and in addition to guaranteeing a true cap in spending that will put us on a path to balance and also enforcing a balanced budget amendment we must also add this line and that's to repeal and defund Obamacare."
Yet other Tea Party favorites like Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), speaking on FOX News recently, stated that he could only vote for a raise in the debt ceiling with corresponding tax and spending cuts. He favors the Cut, Cap and Balance Act. And, for many, he is the Senate stalwart - the voice of the Tea Party in the Senate, along with Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC). On the Cut, Cap and Balance Act, DeMint has stated:
President Obama says it is an ‘unrealistic goal’ to stop deficit spending over the next decade. He promises to veto the Republican plan (Cut, Cap and Balance) to save our credit rating, and instead is asking for a blank check debt to borrow trillions of dollars more. This extreme position puts the President on the wrong side of the American people who are demanding an end to wasteful Washington spending.
Reps. Broun and Bachmann, and Sens. Paul and DeMint are working within well defined Tea Party boundaries. No tax increases will be accepted. Some members will accept a raise in the debt ceiling, while others will gladly (and loudly!) respect Rep. Broun and his decision to vote no.
While hysteria-merchants like Sens. Reid and Schumer, and Congressmen Frank and Wasserman-Schultz continue to deride the Tea Party, calling them (falsely) extreme and ideologues, the reality doesn't fall far from the tree. If the American people see tax increases, Democrats (except for those protected by hard-left districts, like Rep. Nancy Pelosi) will have to deal with more upstart Tea Party candidates in the upcoming election. Republicans will find themselves in serious primary challenges if they fail to listen to their constituents.
In the Gang of Six plan, $3.75 trillion in cuts are proposed, along with Medicare cuts. It even has some initial support from President Obama, and seems like something that can get passed. However, it includes $1.2 trillion in added "revenues" over the next ten years. Revenues are, by and large, taxes. It is highly doubtful that any member of the Tea Party will see this as a proper course, and even more doubtful that it will see any chance of survival in the House.
Passage of tax increases, of any kind, will force those "Yea" voting Republicans into harsh, expensive primary challenges. For Democrats, it will mean an energized voting block willing to aggressively campaign for their competition. This means that Democrats will need to raise more money, and spend more time actually campaigning for votes they once may have thought are in the bag.
The Tea Party will, by all accounts, look at multiple options and ideas to move the nation past August 2nd. But, if tax increase are involved, retribution will be fierce, and, for the members who voted for the increases, very expensive.