No, the Tea Party Isn't Stalling

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 13 2011 1:44 PM

No, the Tea Party Isn't Stalling

I'm going to disagree with Joshua Green on most of his points here.

The Tea Party may continue toalter races across the country, and could also shape the Republicanpresidential field. But it appears to have reached the limit of itsinfluence in Washington. Here, where it counts most, the Tea Party islooking like a spent force... 

Republican House leaders, having pushed through a budget written byRepublican Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin that embodies the TeaParty ideal of a government drastically scaled back, suddenly flinched.They signaled that important components of the budget would not move ahead,in particular a plan to privatize Medicare... The Tea Partymessage, so seductive in the abstract, can be deadly in its particulars toany politician seeking a broader appeal. As that doctrine is put intopractice, even prospectively, voters are beginning to balk.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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Following that, there are some examples of polls that show the NY-26 race a bit too close for comfort, anecdotes of voter pushback against Paul Ryan's Medicare plan, and a reference to the absurdly overhyped Tea Party Jamboree press conference at which William Temple, the man who wears colonial garb and gets photographed and quoted by everyone, called John Boehner a "surrenderist." I never thought I'd say this, but it's possible we're paying too much attention to the advice of a man wearing a tri-cornered hat.

Yes, the Ryan plan for Medicare has become a political football -- we sort of knew it would. But has there been a backlash to the Medicaid block grant concept? No. And while the Ryan plan has become controversial, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner both confirmed this week that they want entitlement reform as part of a deal to raise the debt ceiling. That's substantially more commitment to entitlement reform, with more urgency, than House and Senate Republicans gave George W. Bush in 2005.

It might be useful to look at a metric of what the Tea Party wanted in 2011. Check out the "Contract from America," which was endorsed by basically every Tea Party group.

Require each bill to identify the specific provision of the Constitution that gives Congress the power to do what the bill does.

Reject Cap & Trade

Done.

Begin the Constitutional amendment process to require a balanced budget with a two-thirds majority needed for any tax hike.

Every Republican senator has endorsed this.

Impose a statutory cap limiting the annual growth in total federal spending to the sum of the inflation rate plus the percentage of population growth.

Not only has a version of this been introduced, it was co-sponsored by Claire McCaskill.

Place a moratorium on all earmarks until the budget is balanced, and then require a 2/3 majority to pass any earmark.

Done.

Permanently repeal all tax hikes, including those to the income, capital gains, and death taxes, currently scheduled to begin in 2011. 

Close: The Obama administration buckled and gave Republicans a long extension on the Bush tax cuts. And that last point leads us to the Tea Party victory that is so obvious we don't even think about it. Washington is focused not on employment, not on inequality, not on any of Barack Obama's 2008 priorities, but on the debt and the deficit. Every political debate happens in the terms the Tea Party set in 2009.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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