Is the tea party ready to deal on fiscal cliff?
December 12th, 2012
08:00 PM ET
10 years ago

Is the tea party ready to deal on fiscal cliff?

Washington (CNN) - For the tea party movement, change is brewing on Capitol Hill.

Florida Republican Rep. Allen West, who rode the conservative wave into the House of Representatives two years ago only to be swept away in November, has already moved out of his office.

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When CNN paid a visit to the outgoing freshman lawmaker's office, a painting crew was prepping the space for its new occupant. Boxes and furniture were in the hallway. Staff members were gone. Through a spokeswoman, West declined to be interviewed for this story.

For some tea party backed lawmakers who remain in their seats, the movement appears to be shifting toward a compromise on the fiscal cliff, or at least allowing one to pass.

"We have to understand and bow to reality at some point in time. Republicans have no power in this negotiation," Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, told CNN.

Johnson said he would not use his filibuster power to block a vote on a compromise that raises taxes. The Republican senator indicated that is one such scenario under discussion among GOP leadership.

"There's only one person that can prevent taxes being raised for the American public. It's the president. Because without any action, without him being willing to sign a bill, taxes go up for every American. I don't want to see that happen," Johnson said.

A handful of tea party aligned members of Congress believe they are being punished for their uncompromising views on taxes and spending by Republican leaders in the House, including Speaker John Boehner.

Last week, Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kansas, and three other House members were booted from their committee assignments in what they believe to be a message from Boehner to get in line for a vote on the fiscal cliff.

Huelskamp has accused the speaker and House leadership of keeping a "scorecard" on lawmakers' votes.

"We have determined that there is some type of secret scorecard," Huelskamp told CNN. "I think there's going to be an attempt to - potentially, I hope not - to push a tax increase through the House and we will see what happens," he added.

Boehner denied he is dropping the hammer in a letter to the lawmakers.

"There is no scorecard or any other single criteria used to determine committee assignments," Boehner's letter reads.

Roughly 18 months after tea party activists rallied on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol and chanted "shut 'er down" during previous budget stand-offs, their conservative favorites in Congress are leaving the door open to compromise, even on the contentious subject of raising tax rates on wealthier Americans.

At a popular regular gathering of tea party backed lawmakers, dubbed "Conversation with Conservatives," Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho said Wednesday his vote hinges on what the president proposes.

"But the problem is that I want to see real cuts. Real cuts. I'm not saying yes and I'm not saying no," Labrador said.

Seated right next to Labrador at the meeting, Rep. Jim Jordan, a Republican from Ohio and fellow tea party favorite, offered no such chance for compromise.

"I'll be clear and I'll say no," Jordan said.

Filed under: Allen West • Congress • Fiscal Cliff • Tea Party
soundoff (443 Responses)
  1. musician

    If the Tea Party had their way they`d cut several trillion dollars out of the federal budget,with no revenue increases, and send the country into a deep depression, which would further exacerbate the deficit problem and ruin the lives of millions of Americans. That is why they will fail. Because they are really, really stupid and their solutions are actually the very worst thing for the country. They are also religious fanatics and political hyper-partisans. Always a very bad combination. They are the problem. They are the reason no common sense legislation can pass through Congress. They are the problem.

    December 13, 2012 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  2. blue dog

    Actually I have seen some smart ppl falling victim to the tea party politics. But I think at the root lies a deeply conservative , irrational thought process.

    December 13, 2012 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  3. ingyandbert

    We need to sweep all the TPers out of office. Maybe then the Republican party can gain some semblence of sanity.

    December 13, 2012 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  4. Sniffit

    Why are we talking about this as though the Teatrolls control the conversation and the negotiations? THEY DON'T.

    WHO CARES if they are wiling to "deal" now? They have ZERO LEVERAGE in this. We can sit back and do nothing and the rates go up on the wealthy and everyone else. Then, we just propose cuts ONLY for the middle-class and they can hoist themselves by their own petard trying to block it.

    The angle/spin of this articles premise is precisely the problem. Ever since the first stirrings of Astroturf Frankenstein, the MSM has done everything in their power to give them false legitimacy and prop them up, despite how utterly stupid and bigotted and misinformed they consistently prove themselves to be. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

    December 13, 2012 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  5. Kweso

    One major tenent of democracy is the power of the government to tax the population in order to provide the services required for the protection and benefits of the people. Taxation is the primary source of revenue for democratic governments and republicans need to learn this.

    December 13, 2012 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  6. Cosmos42

    "America in crisis: Cut the budget"

    Oh, sweet irony!

    December 13, 2012 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  7. Arch

    as pointed, out, where were these scolds when gwb was playing at two wars (off the books for near a trillion), bush tax breaks (generating little job growth but mountains of debt) and medicare part d (nicely blowing up the deficit north of 700 bill). oh, but its the school lunch program that is bringing this country to its knees. As hinted at back in the 70s –

    The Tea Party = The Very Silly Party (thank you john cleese, eric idle, michael palin, graham chapman, terry jones and terry gilliam).

    December 13, 2012 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  8. DD

    TEAPARTIERS: YOU BLEW IT. You could have gone somewhere with fiscal responsibility, but just became far right wingers instead. If you'd included cutting the Defense budget, I'd have taken you more seriously. You want to cut taxes for the rich WHILE increasing costs for the people like seniors, the disabled, preschool? Please. You are just a rabid elephant in a new suit.

    December 13, 2012 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  9. Anonymous


    Really admirable of all you protecting all those helpless multi-billionaires but the rest of us have had enough.

    It would be even more admirable if Boehner would stand up publicly and tell this group of societal misfits "HELL NO. HELL NO YOU CAN'T" keep holding America hostage.

    December 13, 2012 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  10. Dan of NY

    As a former Republican, It is sad to see the GOP become a slave to the Tea Party, Grover(Grovel) Norquist, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Marc Levin and the like. Some sense of balance and sanity needs to prevail. When the GOP get's its head on straight, I might consider coming back.

    December 13, 2012 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  11. Floyd from Illinois

    Comparing the Tea Party to the humorous insanity of Monty Python's Flying Circus is deeply offensive to fans of the latter.

    December 13, 2012 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  12. Christopher Riess

    The party is over. The tea party is recognized as being nothing more than a tool for the Kock Brothers to trick the mentally ill and lower educated to vote against their own best interests. They are now seen as the primary reason that the GOP lost this past election. BADLY. It is time that we start rounding these people up and forcing them to get help. The only other alternative should be that they are tried for treason. Every single person who signed one of those ludicrous petitions to secede should be investigated. Thank God we didn't close Guantanamo, because we are going to need a place to put these enemies of our country.

    December 13, 2012 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  13. Nick

    Many of us want compromise. It's the only way to move this nation forward. Unfortunately, there are some who think that compromise means surrender.

    December 13, 2012 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  14. superlogi

    The Tea Party wouldn't deal, but there are RINO's who would and will. They'll also be fired for doing it.

    December 13, 2012 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  15. Bill

    We need Obama to get what he wants and when the country crashes we can kick the liberals to the curb and start rebuilding this country. PSY is proof that Obama hates the U.S.

    December 13, 2012 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  16. Sniffit

    "Comparing the Tea Party to the humorous insanity of Monty Python's Flying Circus is deeply offensive to fans of the latter."

    Indeed. The analogy is wafer thin.

    December 13, 2012 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  17. Lynda/Minnesota

    I'd don't know. I have a real problem calling an organization "grassroots" when the leader of the pack (Dick Armey) holds his business meetings at Denny's and then milks his faithful with an $8 million dollar payout once his "grassroots" organization becomes too radical even for him. Too, too fiscally responsible ... if you get my drift.

    December 13, 2012 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  18. VistaPoint

    We need to reduce spending, mostly military spending. It is absurd the amount we spend on things we do not need to conduct modern day warfare. Everything has gone electronic and yet we are spending $35B to build a new fighter. Why??? The next attack on our country is more likely to be a cyber attack rather than an military one. That is where we need to invest in and human intelligence and not in building hardwares and foreign military bases.

    December 13, 2012 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  19. Larry L

    Too many Tea Party types want simple solutions to complex problems. Folks get brainwashed by Fox News sound bites where problems are reduced to right-wing spin designed to cast the President and Democratic party in a bad light. Reality isn't on the far-right or the far-left. We need sacrifice at every level, pragmatic solutions, and honest leadership free of loyalty to political parties or "pledges" to extremists. To become relevant, the Tea Party must separate itself from extremism and bigotry.

    December 13, 2012 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  20. ObservantHistorian

    "I would not characterize TEA Party members as lunatics, I characterize them as impassioned about the exploding tax rates at all levels of government and the on-going spending that is not sustainable." I agree. Most are not lunatics. However, most are pretty much ignorant. Taxes are now at rates comparable to Eisenhower and Reagan. So myths about "exploding tax rates" may be an effective ploy for riling up Fox News viewers, but it has nothing to do with reality. As for "ongoing spending that is unsustainable," the tea partiers were silent when the Repubs were bankrupting the country and maxing out the credit cards, but suddenly up in arms when the Democrats found that government still had to run despite the fact that the Repubs had again emptied the treasury. I grew up in upstate NY, where there are tea party stalwarts propping up every small town bar, shooting their mouths off about topics they know nothing about, spouting barely (if at all) veiled racists comments, and certain that what little they actually comprehend about the world is all there is to know. The tea party's success, to the extent it can be said to have had some, is just the result of Ignoramuses electing ignoramuses, egged on and financed by people who benefit immensely from that situation. They may be empassioned, but it's a passion born of ignorance.

    December 13, 2012 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  21. RJ

    Yeah, debt at the end of Clinton, $4.5 Trillion. End of Bush, $9.5 Trillion. End of Obama-1st term, $15.5 Trillion. Projected end of Obama term 2, $20 Trillion. Yup, them TEA Partiers just destroying America. Land of people proud to say "I don't know math too well"...LOL. And the people who love Herman Cain and Allen West are OBVIOUSLY racists! ROFLMAO at liberal "logic". Hate on, fools. We'll see how the 'establishment" fixes what's wrong. TEA Party all the way, baby!

    December 13, 2012 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  22. Joshua Ludd

    If only they had bothered to say a single word when Bush was president and their own party had control of both houses and were doing things like setting a new record for time without vetoing a spending bill and a record expansion of government size... not to mention getting us into a new record deficit. Its easy to say we need to cut spending, shrink government, and reduce the debt when your opposition is in the majority. Its a great way to score political points and maybe even get a few votes next time around. It is a lot harder and for the Republicans it seems to be impossible to not only preach those things but actually do them when in the majority and in control. They keep saying Bush fooled them all, but Bush isn't all that smart and didn't hide what he was doing at all.

    December 13, 2012 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  23. al

    The Tea Party has no choice. the President has backed Republicans into a corner, and rightly so, and they have no way to get out. If the Tea Party wants to remain viable they will have to get on board or else they will be gone, as will many other republicans. People in this country are tired of obstruction and the "just say no" attitude of the Tea Party and Republicans.

    December 13, 2012 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  24. keeth

    The Tea Party wants very limited gov't, federal gov't spending only for the military, cut schools, dissolve unions, cut police and firefighters, cut taxes from top to bottom, the Christian religion is the basis for all laws, minorities of all kinds are marginalized, and everyone is on their own. If you compare their wish list to an existing country, you'll find that they want to turn us into Pakistan.

    December 13, 2012 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  25. The Real Tom Paine


    We need Obama to get what he wants and when the country crashes we can kick the liberals to the curb and start rebuilding this country. PSY is proof that Obama hates the U.S.
    And Hank Williams Jr and Ted Nugent are proof that the Right hates the US and virtually everyone in it. Get over it. Quit making millionaires out to be oppressed.

    December 13, 2012 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
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