I recently wrote that I believe a number of unavoidable “train wrecks” will occur between the Tea Party and the Republican Party. When it comes to these “train wrecks” it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. The first of these are taking shape before anyone even arrives on Capitol Hill to take a seat in the new Congress. The first two issues of contention will be who gets the committee chairs and the attempt to “repeal and replace” Obamacare.
Tea Party-endorsed candidates accounted for almost half of the House seats picked up by the G.O.P. and members of the movement are expecting to play more than second fiddle to Republican veterans in the 112th Congress. A recent article on these newcomers and their expectations revealed: “The large number of incoming Tea Party-backed candidates has empowered Republicans aligned with the grass-roots activists to try to expand their power in Congress. Representative Michele Bachmann, a Minnesota Republican and a favorite of the movement that seeks limited government, announced yesterday on Facebook that she will seek a leadership post in the party’s House caucus.” While committee chairmanships may be the expectation of the newly elected Tea Party backed members, the reality will be quite different. You see the incoming Speaker of the House, John Boehner is not exactly an ideologue or a fan of the movement. Moreover, the process for securing committee chairmanships takes place within the personal politics of the House and not on the set of Fox News or on the campaign trail, which is to say that the workings of Congress have not changed even if the Tea Party has come to Washington. As such, it’s more than likely that the new occupants of the various committee chairmanships have already been selected and it’s not likely that you will find too many Tea Party people among them. Representative Steve King, an Iowa Republican who is supporting Bachmann said: “party leaders want to pack the leadership team with their picks. That means there’s not someone on the inside circle who’s going to be the voice of constitutional conservatives. That would be a shame, since they are the ones who gave us this majority.” If this in fact turns out to be the “new normal” on Capitol Hill, was the claim made that the Tea Party Movement has been used for its votes and its efforts farfetched or is it likely to be an accurate assessment of an unfolding reality?
The second stumbling block on the road to 2012 will be the issue of what to do about Obamacare. Many who ran as first time candidates and who received the Tea Party endorsement signed a pledge that states: “I pledge, if elected, to vote for all bills which seek to repeal the health care bill, HR 3590, signed into law on March 23, 2010.” Likewise, existing Republicans who sought re-election signed a similar statement in order to obtain the movement’s endorsement and support. In “A Pledge to America”; the G.O.P. committed to:” to “repeal and replace” Obamacare should their party gain control of the U.S. Congress.” However, without control of the Senate and in the face of an Obama veto, this was an unrealistic aspiration to begin with. That unrealistic goal has already led Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to back away from any such idea. As McConnell said yesterday during a speech at the Heritage Foundation.: “We may not be able to bring about straight repeal in the next two years, and we may not win every vote against targeted provisions, even though we should have bipartisan support for some…But we can compel administration officials to attempt to defend this indefensible health spending bill and other costly, government-driven measures, like the stimulus and financial reform.” Well, it doesn’t take a seasoned political analyst to see that this will run right into what the Tea Party Movement’s adherents want and expect. Just yesterday the co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, Mark Meckler was on national television speaking on what he believes the American people want and what the Tea Party wants to deliver: a total roll back of the Obama agenda. “They are not in a mood for compromise”, said Meckler of both the movement’s rank and file and the larger electorate. Well as it may more than likely turn out, those who are unwilling to compromise may be the ones who are ultimately disappointed and not vice versa.
Steven J. Gulitti