Updated: November 2, 2011 5:48PM
WASHINGTON — The Tea Party’s influence throughout the months-long negotiations over the debt ceiling led to spending cuts in the trillions. The movement helped push the negotiations to the brink of today’s deadline by insisting that any deal could not include tax increases.
So what was its reaction when the House passed a deal Monday night that would raise the debt ceiling in exchange for deficit reductions of more than $2 trillion without tax increases?
“Political suicide,” according to Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips. Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin said the deal was “destroying America’s future.”
Sen. Rand Paul, a freshman Republican from Kentucky who co-founded the Senate Tea Party Caucus, argued that the deal never balances the budget and lamented that it did not contain a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. Rep. Paul Broun, a Republican from Georgia who has been embraced by the Tea Party, even proposed lowering the debt ceiling to reign in federal spending.
The movement that helped sweep Republicans into power in the House in 2010 has been pushing for sharp reductions in the size of federal government and a dramatic decrease of the deficit. Yet Tea Party activists and legislators say the GOP leadership squandered an opportunity to cut even more, and are warning legislators who voted for the deal Monday night that they would be targeted in the 2012 primaries.
“We put them in power and now we’re asking ourselves, ‘Why did we do that?’” Phillips said.
Yet some saw the deal as a large, first step on the road toward a rational federal budget. Rep. Allen West, a freshman Republican from Florida and a Tea Party favorite, said the movement has already done a remarkable job shifting the debate from how to spend to how to cut, and Monday’s vote was further evidence of that.
“Sometimes, in getting to your ultimate objective, you have to have intermediate objectives,” West said. “We found a sweet spot on the baseball bat and we have a deep centerfield home run.”
Some worried that the deal would soften the spotlight that’s been on the spending debate for months.
“The president did not want it to be part of the campaign next year, and now it will not be,” Broun said. “This bill is going to take it off the front burner.” Gannett News Service