September 3rd, 2009
03:47 PM ET
9 years ago

FreedomWorks, Tea Party Patriots head for the Hill

Next week, a flood of protesters are planning to head to Capitol Hill.

Next week, a flood of protesters are planning to head to Capitol Hill.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Members of Congress - returning to work after a chaotic August recess - may be welcoming a return to their D.C. offices and a schedule free of visits to town halls, the district-level gatherings that have provided the stage for some of the summer's fiercest faceoffs. But their break is likely to be a short one: Next week, a flood of those town hall protesters are planning to head to the Hill.

Starting Thursday September 10, the day after President Obama delivers an address on health care reform to a joint session of Congress, thousands of opponents of his proposal are slated to swarm congressional offices. The push marks the kickoff of the annual three-day March on Washington organized by former Rep. Dick Armey's FreedomWorks organization. Given its critics' show of strength, predicts FreedomWorks president Matt Kibbe, the latest Democratic health care legislation will be "dead on arrival."

The first two days of the event are slated to include workshops on fundraising, "grassroots on the ground" and Web activism. But the centerpiece of the agenda Thursday and Friday are congressional visits: Participants will be given lobbying guidance before being directed to head to the Hill for planned, and unplanned, meetings with legislators - particularly those who support, or are considering support for, President Obama's health care plan. An overwhelming number of the new attendees, and speakers at the weekend's events, are expected to come from the ranks of the Tea Party Patriots, as the group's "Tea Party Express" tour ends in the nation's capital.

Planners say they aren't looking to re-create a town hall atmosphere on Capitol Hill – but admit the prospect is likely. "There'll be some chaos, there'll be some yelling," concedes coordinator Brendan Steinhauser; some individuals visiting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi might call her an "evil-monger." But FreedomWorks, which has consistently denied charges it helped organize deliberate disruptions of congressional town halls this summer, continues to claim a hands-off approach, insisting that any aggressive activity won't be directed by them, and that they will be asking participants to take a civil approach. "We do our best to guide (those headed to the Hill)," said Steinhauser Wednesday, a week before the event. "But they're individuals. There's no guarantees."

It's been a tough summer for FreedomWorks. Reports that the group was responsible for packing town halls with rowdy protestors drew fire from liberal opponents; reports that they were charging conservative organizations thousand of dollars for speaking slots and access to attendees at next week's gathering drew criticism from some allied groups. FreedomWorks continues to deny mobilizing activists to spark chaos at the summer's district-level town halls, and has defended the fees as minor and necessary to gather funds to cover expenses associated with next week's events.

The number of local activists who've registered in advance for the summit's two-day grassroots training crash course has increased tenfold from last year, according to FreedomWorks, from 200-300 to more than 2,000 as of Wednesday. Organizers estimate that the number of attendees for the Saturday rally - co-sponsored by conservative groups like the Tea Party Patriots, National Taxpayers Union, Heartland Institute, and Free Republic, Tea Party Express - is likely to be in the tens of thousands, but say they have no real sense of what the final count might be. (Also unknown: how many unaffiliated or counter-protesters might show.)

Saturday will feature the main event: a march down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol, where a speakers list dominated by local activists will address attendees in between crowd-rousing vintage musical interludes like Welcome to the Jungle, Metallica's Whiskey in the Jar and Bush's Machinehead. The lineup is light on elected officials, including just a handful of conservative stalwarts like Reps. Marsha Blackburn and Mike Pence, and Sen. Jim DeMint. FreedomWorks says organizers wanted to focus on Washington outsiders, but concedes that speaking slot requests by some conservative politicians – including unnamed 2012 hopefuls – were politely declined, based on their positions on issues like TARP and the stimulus. Other typically interested officials, perhaps wary of the boos and catcalls that greeted Sen. John Cornyn at a Tea Party rally in Texas, didn't ask to address the crowd this year.

Next week is also, as political observers have noted, a preview of another fall fight ahead: the battle over "cap and trade" climate legislation that is expected to take center stage after health care cedes the spotlight. FreedomWorks organizers say they believe passions are just as high on that issue. "This week will be the beginning of a new big tent movement," said spokesman Adam Brandon.

Filed under: FreedomWorks • Health care
soundoff (163 Responses)
  1. tjaman

    None of these people have the best interests of the nation as a whole at heart, so I dispute CNN's use of the word "patriots," unless it is simply a snide Dickensian amalgam of the words "parrots" and "idiots."

    As for the health care bill, I remember this approach, getting a message to the pack mentality media that a healthcare bill is "dead on arrival." Hey, FreedomWorks, how about this time we let Congress vote on it first?

    And media, in light of a recent AARP poll saying practically everyone is 'fer it, why don't you attempt a nosecount this time before blithely passing on such a pronouncement? Hell, this keeps up, elections are going to start being decided not on vote counts, but by who simply _declares_ themselves the winner first. *eyeroll*

    September 3, 2009 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  2. kevin

    And most if not all the protesters will be white at that, never seen black peole at any of the town hall screamings, wont see any at some protest march either, what does that tell you!!!!.............Talk about racial divide!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    September 3, 2009 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  3. Moderate Democrat

    "We do our best to guide (those headed to the Hill)," said Steinhauser Wednesday, a week before the event. "But they're individuals. There's no guarantees."

    In other words, nobody among them has been able to muster up the qualities of leadership. Not that we didn't know that, just that it needed pointing out. A bunch of tea baggers, and not a single one of them with the qualities to be a leader. And this is EXACTLY why these retards can do only one thing....complain about everything, and fix NOTHING. These inbreds are allowed to breed. God help us all!

    People, education is fundemental. With out education we become witness to such organizations as "Tea Baggers" and "Republicans". Educate your children before it's too late!

    September 3, 2009 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  4. Sniffit

    Sorry lady in the picture, the line for dying started in Baghdad in 2001 under your precious neocon leaders.

    September 3, 2009 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  5. T Mckinley

    I wonder how long it's going to be before the teabaggers start calling for the repeal of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts of the 1960's, and start demanding that President Lyndon Johnson be impeached "post facto"?

    September 3, 2009 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  6. Duck Fallas

    Please give these people all the attention they want. Cover them 24/7.

    September 3, 2009 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  7. Frank

    what a joke

    September 3, 2009 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  8. Anonymous

    What a pack of morons! How many of these boobs have read the proposed legislation? None?

    Thought so!

    September 3, 2009 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  9. Phat Elvis

    What a bunch of IGNORANT CLOWNS.

    They do NOTHING to contribute to an intelligent dialogue regarding their legitimate concerns. Unfortunately for them, no one told them that the rest of the country isnt as gullible and undereducated as they are.

    September 3, 2009 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  10. EdL

    What a pack of morons! How many of these boobs have read the proposed legislation? None?

    Thought so!

    September 3, 2009 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  11. u2canfail

    I love the GOP in exile. Even less truth. Now the American Cancer Society had to speak up against the new GOP ad. AARP is desperately trying to inform seniors against a GOP ad. I hope Palin runs, it will solidify everyone with a brain against them.

    I pay 100% of my health insurance costs. $1000 a month. I am scared I will get sick, then be dropped from all coverage. I never wish this spot on others. But now it is my wish for every GOP person in Congress. I hope someone in their family gets dropped. Uninsurable, means you had some illness in the past.

    September 3, 2009 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  12. demwit

    Apparently biting off fingers in the correct way to get your message out to these progressively liberal politians..

    September 3, 2009 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  13. liberal

    America's stupidist at it again

    September 3, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  14. Chris

    Look at the far right clowns on here trying to convince rational minded Americans that the President doesn't represent us. Sorry right wing crazies, but we had to put up with your President Bush destroying the country the last eight years. President Obama has only been in office for eight months and he has started to clean up the mess. Notice that even the Wall Street Journal is saying that the economy is recovering thanks to the stimulus.

    September 3, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  15. Mr. Moderate

    I would take these groups a lot more seriously if they even remotely resembled the demographic of today's America. The only minority I have seen at one of these demonstrations is the person hauling around an assault weapon outside a town hall meeting (who was quoted as hoping the president dies, there's a Christian for you).

    The sad thing is these people, who obviously love their country, do not realize they are totally being played as fools by people who could care less about them. Their concerns have been exploited to make the right wing talking heads very wealthy. Does anyone really believe that Rush and company believe half of what they tell people?

    September 3, 2009 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  16. jfs Memhis, Tn

    They should be helping the unemployed,, homeless, and termially ill and uninsured. I am sure that is where Jesus would be , not in some picket line, wasting time, and trying to prevent the care of the less fortunate.

    September 3, 2009 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  17. Independent For Obama

    I hope all of them are arrested if they break any laws in D, C. Nothing but domestic terrorists. Why don't they people get a job and quit living off the rest of us.

    September 3, 2009 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  18. Dont blame me

    Like it or not people, what has happened in this country is the the FAR LEFT has managed to WAKE UP the sleeping SILENT MAJORITY in this country.

    Sometimes it takes the BAD TASTE of liberal progressives like Obama and his Chicago Thugs along with the likes of Pelosi and Reid and their cronies and crooks and their big spending and big government to remind us just how bad things could get.

    And now that we are awake Obama had better take note.

    Also, how many of you LIBS out there have actually READ this health care bill????

    Well I have and there is plenty to be upset about in that bill.

    I CHALLENGE each and every one of you to READ HR3200 like I have. And read it with an open mind. And then we will see what side of the fence you really are on. Obama and his cronies are NOT telling the truth about this bill, they are covering it up in the hopes that everyone will fall in line.

    September 3, 2009 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  19. DJ

    You Tea people are such idiots. Get an education and learn the facts you bunch of neanderthals.

    September 3, 2009 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  20. Cmreno

    Oh Boy,
    Now we get to watch the fat, uneducated whities in this country rant and rave all over again. And, to think that many of these call themselves Christians! They would rather screw their fellow man than help him. They are a travesty to this country and their faith. They are an embarrassment to us all.

    September 3, 2009 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  21. Irma in North Carolina

    They should not even let this bunch of uneducated republican cry babys any near the white house or the capital. Better yet they should not even be allowed in DC at all. Now they are asking Sarah to join them. Well she just the person for them she knows how to let the hate flow out of her mouth. So you tea baggers supporters of Sarah think you are going to get Sarah in the white house. You must make up the 23 percent of republicans that are left. Oh yes be sure to get the baptist minister from Arizona in your fold too.

    September 3, 2009 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  22. America Shrugged

    This party has nothing to do with healthcare. If you added up all the folks on gov run healthcare (medicare, medicaid, Tri-Care, VA ) , you would come up with more than half the population of this country. This protest is much ado about nothing. Bush tax cuts are still in place until 2011 and the rest of us received small tax breaks, banks are paying back TARP funds and we've made a profit, car companies are doing better and are meaner, leaner, and becoming more innovative thanks to Bush n Obama, stock market has biggest improvement in several years, and healthcare reform is finally being addressed. stimulus is starting to work even though very little funds have been disbursed, and the stimulus prevented hundreds of thousands of state workers across the company continue to work and keep vital services going,.Let's face it, it's about destroying a Presidency before it's even really begun. They won't succeed.

    September 3, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  23. Stanley

    Since when does freedom of speech mean "bigotry" and since when does freedom of assembly make one a "nut"? Oh, I get it ... only when you don't agree. All you name-callers need to go wipe your noses and read the Constitution. In America, everyone has a right to their opinion. Citizens have the right to protest, and they have the right to disagree with the President. Grow up and man up!

    September 3, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  24. BobH

    If these people are all going to be in Washington next week opposing health care, who's going to be patrolling our border with Mexico and keeping gay couples out of churches?

    September 3, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  25. Sniffit

    "Apparently biting off fingers in the correct way to get your message out to these progressively liberal politians.."

    Especially after we've been punched in the face for no good reason. You can focus on the biting all you want, but the dude who lost his finger started the fight....that's a FACT. Ommitting that FACT is called LYING.

    September 3, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
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