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. Marie MD

    YEes, those idiots who elected you and your teabaggers thinking that JOBS was your first priority. Not that most of us knew that your only chant should be one term President and we don't want to play because of his skin color.
    Sorry dimwit, but 2012 will be different. Of course, you being from SC might get you through another election.

    July 27, 2011 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  2. Julie

    I see the sign that says the "Tea Party is America." This is not so. The majority of Americans want to see pragmatic, middle of the road problem solving, not believing that somehow you can get toothpaste back in the tube. You think keeping a couple of extra hundred dollars a year in tax cuts is worth some of your family, friends and neighbors doing without food or healthcare? How do you talk to Jesus with those beliefs?

    July 27, 2011 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  3. Ed Texas

    Tea Baggers biggest moment – Dow slides on debt fears. Thanks for nothing Tea Baggers!

    July 27, 2011 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  4. Jim in San Mateo

    If the Tea Party keeps it up and this country defaults on it's bills, the Republicans will get a trouncing they will never forget in 2012. It's actually a good thing that this is happening now because it will take some time for the more severe effects of their stupidity to settle in. You may want to invest in some comfortable shoes while you have a job, there are long, long lines ahead.

    July 27, 2011 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  5. The Dude

    Who is winning? Big Money of course. Did ya notice Cisco Systems trying to dodge taxes on 40 billion they hid in EU shell accounts. The Teahadist people want them to pay 2.1 billion instead of the 14 billion they owe on it. Isn't that special. This after they just canned 7000 Americans this year. Whoopeee.

    July 27, 2011 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  6. The Greedy Old Pigs have declared class war on US!

    Nice circular firing squad you got going there, GOBPbaggers. This is what happens when the corrupt corporatist cultists dump massive amounts of unsourced money to spread fear, lies, hate and propaganda to eliminate the New Deal and "take care of the greedy, not the needy."

    The teatards are not part of the solution; the teatards are the problem

    July 27, 2011 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  7. anne krick

    If only 1% of the American public claims to still actively support the tea party (and I believe that), then why are those tea party members of Congress so stubbornly claiming they know what Americans want. It doesn't make sense.

    July 27, 2011 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  8. West

    The EPA doesn't do anything?? Who are these idiots? Let's abolish the EPA and see what our health (and that of our children) is like in 20 years, when we're back to breathing toxic air, drinking toxic water, and have to explain to our kids why there aren't any fish in our rivers.

    July 27, 2011 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  9. vic

    Again the destruction of the President is the primary goal of the Tea Party. If the country falls so be it. They didn't come out of the woodwork when Bush was running up huge deficits. Please Tea Party members give up your medicare card and your social security checks then we may believe you.

    July 27, 2011 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  10. West

    No, Walsh. It's you and your bums who are destroying America. The Tea Party: Extremist ideology first, American people last.

    July 27, 2011 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  11. vic , nashville ,tn

    I seen the report in Situation room
    Tea party is bigot’s movement they are losing the power and members now

    My family member no more tea party member thanks to Paul Ryan budget proposal

    July 27, 2011 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  12. Jack V

    I only see three people there. I saw more people at the gas station on my way home from WORK!!!

    July 27, 2011 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  13. truthman

    If not now, when?

    July 27, 2011 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  14. carrotroot

    From news reports I'm reading it seems like the rally had about 100 attendees.

    July 27, 2011 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  15. truthman

    Harry Reid was afraid to let the Senate vote on the House's Budget Bill...He didn't even let it see the light of day. Why?

    July 27, 2011 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  16. Jean Askew

    Whaaaaat? How can the 1% of Americans in the Tea Party movemnet hold so much influence? How can these few hold all of us hostage? I would never vote for any of them but must watch them move us all toward disaster with their half-truths and self-serving sound bites.. Good government in a democracy feeds on wise compromise for the sake of the PEOPLE not right-wing ideologues. The danger is REAL and they need to GET REAL. Where is John Boehner's courage to take them on?

    July 27, 2011 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  17. Vynn

    Don't these idiots realize that it is COGRESS, not the president, who spends our tax dollars. The President can't do ANYTHING without the approval of Congress.

    July 27, 2011 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  18. Philip Hades

    I welcome the Tea Party flexing it's muscles like this, mainly because they're flexing them by slitting their own throat. They've proven their ideological fundamentalists out to impost their views on everyone else and it's DESTROYING them. Look at what's happening in Wisconsin. Tea Party Republicans pushed through anti-worker and anti-citizen agendas only to find themselves recalled and about to be replaced!

    July 27, 2011 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  19. Maureen Mower

    To that last point from Joe Walsh (in the article):

    If Obama is "destroying what makes this country great", it's because he's trying too hard to appease the fanatical right-wing extremists in Congress. He wasn't elected to bow down to a caucus that represents 1% of Americans. He was elected to represent the OTHER 99%!!

    I voted for Obama once. I am still hoping someone will challenge him in a Dem primary next year. Someone with a stiffer spine who will tell the Tea Party crew that if they continue to make terroristic threats against the people of America, they will be arrested and put in Gitmo!!

    July 27, 2011 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  20. GI Joe

    Who voted for Norquist? I didn't see his name on any ballot last year.

    And I WILL NOT vote TP or Republican next year. You can count me out.

    Can 1% really rule the other 99%?? What country is this?? Iran??

    July 27, 2011 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  21. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    There were 50 dummies in attendance here.

    July 27, 2011 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  22. Jim

    "These people are "Probably the mosts Gullable,out of touch with reality,shallowheaded,under educated in, 6th grade Science,History,Paul Revere ridng "Bunch" in History?????? Beem me up,"Please Scotty??

    July 27, 2011 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  23. MTATL67

    If the anger that is in my community is like the anger in other cities this extremist group does not have as much power as the think. I will campaign and camp out in my Representatives office to make it clear that this extremist group does not have our community or America's best interest. They will not yield the power they did last election. As one of my Republican friends said She voted for the Republicans not an extremist group. Another friend and yes Republican says that the Tea Baggers are fiscal terrorist.

    July 27, 2011 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  24. B

    These Tea party idiots are going to destroy this country and the Republicans are going to wish that they had never joined forces with them..

    They will lose in 2012 as Americans finally understand and are – just a bit Steamed over this travesty of Politics, to say the least !

    July 27, 2011 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  25. Malty

    The ideals of the Tea Party can save our economy. Am I the only one surprised by the fight that democrats are putting up to avoid spending cuts? Cut wasteful and unnecessary spending, pay down the debt that we have and cap the amount of money we can borrow–very reasonable.

    No country in the history of the world has spent its way into prosperity. (And taxing the rich won't save the economy either).

    July 27, 2011 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
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