The tea party's big moment
July 27th, 2011
05:42 PM ET
11 years ago

The tea party's big moment

(CNN) - Don't be fooled by the tiny turnout at the tea party rally on Capitol Hill Wednesday. The conservative movement doesn't much need rallies anymore. November 2010 changed all of that.

Boasting powerful leaders inside the Senate and big numbers in the House of Representatives, the tea party just might show the world how it might govern come August 2, the nation's deadline for raising the debt ceiling.

"We've got to stand strong. We can't let down the people who elected us last November," Senator Jim DeMint said at Wednesday's rally.

DeMint and newly elected tea party backed Republican Sen. Rand Paul are brushing off Obama administration warnings of a "catastrophe."

"This is an artificial crisis. The President has created and concocted a crisis," Paul told reporters.

Both DeMint and Paul are signaling they may be willing to take debate over the debt ceiling past August 2, if a balanced budget amendment is not attached to a final deal.

"I'm opposed to any #debt ceiling increase that doesn't fix the problem permanently w/ #BBAmdt," Paul tweeted Wednesday afternoon.

Other leaders in the movement, such as Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain, argue no increase to the country's debt limit is necessary.

"I don't believe that the debt ceiling should be raised. I don't believe that the debt ceiling has to be raised," Cain said in an interview with CNN at the rally.

The comments by tea party leaders put them squarely at odds with House Speaker John Boehner who has warned repeatedly he doesn't want to see the nation default on its obligations.

"No one wants to default on the full faith and credit of the United States government," Boehner said at a July 22 news conference.

But Cain, the former CEO of Godfather's Pizza, insists the country could simply pick and choose which bills to pay and just do without any borrowed money until permanent cuts to government programs can be made.

"We've got enough money in the treasury to pay the interest on the debt, pay the soldiers and their families, pay Social Security recipients, and pay Medicare and Medicaid," Cain said. As for other federal agencies, Cain said "you put everything else on the table."

Asked whether the government faces a potential shutdown if the debt ceiling isn’t raised by August 2, Sen. Paul put it a different way. “Government in transition,” he called it.

Tea party activists at Wednesday's rally proposed the immediate closing of whole federal agencies.

"You do that by cutting things you don't need like the Environmental Protection Agency," Washington D.C. tea party organizer Joanne Abbot said. "Just think of all the money that we would save. It doesn't do anything," she added.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney warned there are consequences, noting defense contractors that provide ammunition to U.S. soldiers might not get paid. "It's a Sophie's choice, right? Who do you save? Who do you pay?" Carney asked.

The President found an unlikely ally in his former campaign foe, Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, who took to the Senate floor Wednesday to blast newly elected tea party leaders in Congress.

"To hold out and say we won't agree to raising the debt limit until we pass a Balanced Budget Amendment to the constitution. It's unfair, it's bizarre," McCain said.

"And maybe some people have only been in this body for six or seven months or so really believe that. Others know better," McCain continued.

Not all tea party leaders are standing in the way. Rep. Allen West, R-Florida, has indicated he would support Boehner's final plan to raise the debt ceiling.

Still, the tea party's ability to influence the current debt talks signals the conservative movement has transitioned somewhat from grassroots activism to real political power.

A recent CNN/ORC poll found only one percent of Americans are "active members" of the tea party movement.

The activism has moved to the halls of Congress.

"We have a President right now who is destroying what makes this country great. We have a moment in time right now to fix it," Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Illinois, said at Wednesday's rally.

Filed under: Debt • Deficit • Jim DeMint • Rand Paul • Tea Party movement
soundoff (40 Responses)
  1. Dan

    There are more people in the picture than showed up on the lawn of the capitol.
    I guess the teabaggers finally caught a clue that their social security and medicare will also be threatened by Boehner's plan,
    and decided not to cut off their noses to spite their faces. I don't see how they trusted the republicans and when it comes to Boehner, "Never smile at a crocodile".

    July 27, 2011 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  2. Rudy NYC

    They called a big rally and less than a hundred people showed up. They had more reporters there than supporters.

    July 27, 2011 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  3. Jerry in NC

    I honestly believe, that all the tea party will be successful in doing, is starting this country's second, bloody civil war!

    July 27, 2011 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  4. Rudy NYC

    The Tea Party seems ot have ideology and governing completely mixed up. Compromise is not in their vision of how to govern. The Tea Party has demonstrated that they have no regard for the priniciples of democracy, and only want a dictatorship that runs by their rules.

    Besides, the Tea Party has shown that their 'principles' are not fixed. Currently, they are advocating for large cuts in entitlements, particularly Social Security and Medicare. I think this may explain why the rally crowd may have been so thin.

    They had large rallies during the health care reform debate. They had large numbers carrying signs that read, "Don't Touch My Medicare." Now that the Tea Party has flip-flopped and wants massive cuts to Medicare, no one shows up to their rally. It seems that they have disenfranchised their own 'base.'

    July 27, 2011 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  5. They ought to change from the elephant to the hippo...

    These ignorant fools are going to puke the economy. What fun...! Then they'll start pointing fingers when they don't like the outcome.

    July 27, 2011 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  6. Sandy

    About 50 people showed up. LOL

    July 27, 2011 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  7. Indy

    The Tea Party is NOT America and represents a small majority that have proven they do not belong in trusted elected positions ever again. This was a horrible place to send these rookies and this should never happen again. Time for every voter to get out in 2012 and stop the Republicans from belonging and answering to cults and pledges and give the country back to the people. Never allow anyone who has ties to the Tea Party to be elected again, or it will be the end of the US as we know it.

    July 27, 2011 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  8. Gothaze

    Wow finally someone stated a fact. Only 1% of the American public is a a Tea Bagger. So who is that they always quote the American people spoke loud and clear in the 2010 mid terms. Not! We the people want commerce! Lower gas prices! Affordable health care, and the mafia out of banks.

    July 27, 2011 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  9. Antif1313

    How can we let less than 1% of moronic Americans bring our country down? Remember all the idiotic Congress-persons who are choosing to represent the tea party dummies over the vast majority. Call them and tell 'em to do the right thing & compromise.

    July 27, 2011 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  10. Aaron

    These tea party loons would govern us right into non-existence. What a bunch of idiots!

    July 27, 2011 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  11. Canuck

    I don't understand how a gaggle of misguided fools are being allowed to hijack the economy like this. What is so wrong with making the rich pay their share??? It's absolutely baffling.

    July 27, 2011 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  12. Ken in NC

    A quote from this article says, "the tea party just might show the world how it might govern come August 2". Problem with that is there will be no government to govern which leads one to wonder if this is their goal. Right now I am tired of seeing this attitude that no one will get anything unless we get our way or the attitude that everything will be fine if Democrats will agree to our demands. The voters of this country are i very diverse group of people and most of us voted our representatives into office to go to Washington and run, not destroy our government simply because they cannot have things their way. We voted them into office to work TOGETHER for us.To do that there must be compromise and from what I see, one group of elected officials have decided that if it's not their way then it is no way and that includes even bring about the downfall of our nation. it is my opinion that this group of peoples idea of showing Americans how they wouldd govern after Aug. 2nd amouts to a Back-Up Race Car Driver showing the first line driver how to get in the seat of the race car and completing the race and winning after the engine has blown.

    July 27, 2011 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  13. Mike

    I saw parts of the "rally". Gee, were these the 15 or 20 people that Boehner is afraid of?

    July 27, 2011 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  14. Ron

    These guys (The tea party) have to be the most ignorant people on the face of the earth. And most of them will be the first in the bread lines when they bring this economy down. Pure friggin' idiots.

    July 27, 2011 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  15. A disgusted former Republican

    More crazy talk from the idiots!

    July 27, 2011 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
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