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Collapse of the omnibus spending bill: rise of the ‘tea party Congress’?

On the anniversary of the actual Boston tea party some 237 years ago – when pesky colonists dressed up as Indians and threw the King’s tea into Boston Harbor – the modern invocation of that revolutionary spirit tossed another expensive package overboard Thursday: a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill.

After leading a Republican charge into the House in the Nov. 2 midterm elections, the anti-debt, anti-federalist tea party movement notched its first major legislative victory Thursday by standing up to big-spending Democrats and Republicans and forcing Republican leadership to revoke its support of a bill laden with $8.3 billion worth of legislative earmarks – lawmakers’ pet projects known as pork-barrel spending.

Among other spending priorities, the bill included a total of $1 billion to kickstart the first phase of the federal health-care reform law passed in April, meaning that its defeat likely lays the groundwork for Republicans to follow through on their promise to gut funding for the landmark legislation – per the tea party’s wishes, by the way.

Beer museum? Five famous ‘pork barrel’ projects

The failure of the omnibus bill “is a reminder for Democrats that their ‘historic’ legislation may be short-lived,” writes Washington Post conservative commentator Jennifer Rubin.

Sen. Harry Reid, who had to shelve the bill when Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, under grassroots pressure, swayed nine critical Republican lawmakers to resist it, complained that its failure indicated that Republican leadership has become “a wholly-owned subsidiary of the tea party.”

Faint praise, perhaps, but tea party activists across the country clearly took the repudiation of the pork-laden spending bill as its first major legislative victory and a sign that the grassroots movement will be able to wield influence over the Republican agenda.

“The sun rises tomorrow on a new political landscape” said commenter “reheiler” on National Review, in response to the failure of the omnibus bill. “I grew up on a horse farm. They behave differently after they’ve been broken.”

“The Republicans recognized the lesson from the election: that the grass roots, the tea party, does not want unnecessary federal spending, and they realized that they ignore that sentiment at their own peril,” adds Wendy Schiller, a political scientist at Brown University in Providence, R.I. The Democrats, meanwhile, “miscalculated the internal pressure that fiscal conservatives are putting on Republicans – they didn’t think that some of these Republicans … would be willing to walk away from these earmarks,” she says.

Earlier this week, Reid apparently believed he had locked in nine key Republican votes that would have ensured passage of a bipartisan spending package before the government officially runs out of money on Saturday.

Continue reading at the Christian Science Monitor

NATIONAL REVIEW: Gingrich Weighs in on GOP ‘Pledge to America”

The former speaker comments on the Pledge:

Like with the Contract with America in 1994, a new generation of reform Republicans is offering the American people a clear choice about America’s future. Reconnecting Congress to the Constitution and based on listening to citizens in every part of the country — especially the 2010 Contract FROM America — the reform Republicans offer a choice between the job killing, big government, high tax agenda of the Democratic Party and a Republican Party agenda to reverse out-of-control spending, restore fiscal accountability leading to a balanced budget, create confidence in the private sector to spur new job creation, and strengthen the family.

Be sure to visit the National Review’s ‘The Corner’ for frequent updates on Washington politics.

POLITICS DAILY: Republicans Officially Unveil ‘Pledge to America’

By Patricia Murphy

STERLING, Va.– Far from the steps of the U.S. Capitol, 13 Republican members of Congress gathered Thursday at Tart Lumber Co. to unveil “Pledge to America,” a 45-page booklet they promise will guide their efforts to reform the government Americans say they no longer trust.

House Minority Leader John Boehner stood in shirt-sleeves between rows of raw lumber to explain that the pledge was drafted by listening to the American people and reflected their number one priority — jump-starting the American economy.

“Our pledge to America is that Republicans stand ready to get it done, beginning today,” Boehner said.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Cali.), the man who led the effort to draft the Pledge, said he blamed the Obama administration’s “disastrous policies” for the country’s current economic struggles.

Pledge to America”The land of opportunity has become the land of shrinking prosperity,” he said. “From the bill to bailout the banks to the stimulus that failed to stimulate anything but the deficit to the government takeover over health care, [the American people] said stop. Well, we heard you, we heard you loud and clear.”

Unlike Republicans’ 1994 Contract With America, no candidates or members of Congress will sign the Pledge and no group will march up the Capitol steps to support it. And while the 1994 Contract aggressively promised to enact term limits, amend the Constitution to require a balanced budget and cut off welfare payments to teen moms, the 2010 document softens the tone and broadens the focus to include familiar GOP proposals on health care, national security and shrinking the size of federal government.

Boehner explained that the Pledge covered five areas — jobs and the economy, lowering government spending and reducing the size of government, repealing the recently passed health care law, reforming Congress, and strengthening national security.

Continue reading at Politic Daily

FOX NEWS: Is GOP “Pledge” A Direct Descendant Of Tea Party “Contract from America”

STERLING, Va. — House Republicans came to TART Lumber in suburban Washington, D.C. Thursday to unveil their “Pledge to America,” a sweeping conservative agenda that calls for reigning in federal spending, permanently extending all of the Bush tax cuts and repealing President Obama’s democratically passed health care reform law.

Republicans are hoping the document serves as a rallying call for conservatives to get out the vote this fall and propel them back into the majority in the House of Representatives. “The Pledge” also gives us a preview of the issues Republicans would push should they succeed in their efforts.

Although they won’t admit to it publicly, “The Pledge To America” bears some striking similarities to a Tea Party backed document called “The Contract From America.”

“There are a number of ideas in their document that come straight from ‘The Contract From America,’ said Tea Party Society Member and the “Contract From America” organizer Ryan Hecker. “Their ‘Pledge to America’ includes many of our Contract’s planks, including the top-voted idea to ‘Protect the Constitution’ by requiring every bill to cite Constitutional authority, rejection of Cap and Trade, the imposition of meaningful spending limits, repeal of government-run health care, and extension of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts.”

When asked about any connection between the two documents during Thursdays event, House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, downplayed any link. “We listened to all Americans as we put this together,” Boehner said. “Our members over the last four months have done thousands of town hall meetings, public forums, private meetings to listen to the American people and bring their ideas back to Washington.”

However, after the event a senior member of the Republican House leadership told Fox News, “That document had a lot of influence on ours. No question about it.”

Continue reading at Fox News online

Statement on the Republican “Pledge To America”

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD A HARDCOPY OF THIS STATEMENT

The Contract from America Foundation made the following announcement today regarding the newly released Republican “Pledge to America”:

We are pleased that the Republicans were so heavily influenced by the message of the grassroots Contract from America that their “Pledge to America” includes many of our Contract’s planks, including the top-voted idea to “Protect the Constitution” by requiring every bill to cite Constitutional authority, rejection of Cap and Trade, the imposition of meaningful spending limits, repeal of government-run health care, and extension of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. We are also pleased that they so admired the Contract’s model of allowing for real citizen input that they created their own website, America Speaking Out, to approximate the same function. This is evidence that Republicans are beginning to listen to the millions of ordinary Americans that are fed up with Washington’s ways.

Republican Congressmen, Senators, and candidates should still sign the Contract from America, which boldly tackles the challenges of fundamental tax reform, passage of a balanced budget amendment with a supermajority requirement for any tax hike, and real earmark reform.

The Contract from America is handed up from the true grassroots in this country. After garnering nearly half a million votes in less than two months, the Contract from America is a blueprint that reflects what the people want for their future. If Republicans sign the Contract, they will prove that they are listening to the will of millions of grassroots activists that have protested the unconscionable expansion of government.

Over 300 candidates have signed the Contract from America, including Senators DeMint and Coburn, Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Representative Michele Bachmann, and Senate candidates Mike Lee, Marco Rubio, Sharron Angle, Joe Miller, Jerry Moran, Dino Rossi, Ron Johnson, John Boozman, Kelly Ayotte, and John Raese.

CBS NEWS: “Pledge to America” Unveiled by Republicans (Full Text)

By Brian Montopoli, Jill Jackson

CBS News has obtained a final draft of House Republicans’ legislative agenda for the next Congress, a 21-page “Pledge to America” that they will formally unveil Thursday morning at a Virginia hardware store.

“The need for urgent action to repair our economy and reclaim our government for the people cannot be overstated,” the introduction says.

It continues: “With this document, we pledge to dedicate ourselves to the task of reconnecting our highest aspirations to the permanent truths of our founding by keeping faith with the values our nation was founded on, the principles we stand for, and the priorities of our people. This is our Pledge to America.”

Highlights include:

Jobs:

  • Stop job-killing tax hikes
  • Allow small businesses to take a tax deduction equal to 20 percent of their income
  • Require congressional approval for any new federal regulation that would add to the deficit
  • Repeal small business mandates in the new health care law.

Cutting Spending:

  • Repeal and Replace health care
  • Roll back non-discretionary spending to 2008 levels before TARP and stimulus (will save $100 billion in first year alone)
  • Establish strict budget caps to limit federal spending going forward
  • Cancel all future TARP payments and reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

Reforming Congress:

  • Will require that every bill have a citation of constitutional authority
  • Give members at least 3 days to read bills before a vote

Defense:

  • Provide resources to troops
  • Fund missile defense
  • Enforce sanctions in Iran

To continue reading the complete text of the document, please visit CBS News

UK’s MAIL ONLINE: ‘Tea Party’ Rebels Score Stunning Poll Victories

By Tom Leonard

They want to purify their party and their country, returning America to the honest, founding traditions of thrift, small government and self-reliance from which, they say, it has strayed.

And, like the protesters from whom they take their name (the Bostonians who demonstrated against British taxation by dumping tea into the city’s harbour in 1773), the Tea Party rebels are – by their own account – as ‘mad as hell’.

But whether they are a bunch of dotty extremists or not, the Tea Party phenomenon suddenly poses a serious threat.

On Tuesday night, the upsurge in anger among grassroots American conservatives, with both Barack Obama and the Republican Party, made itself spectacularly felt in the tiny, affluent state of Delaware.

In one of the least expected results of the primary season – in which candidates are chosen for November’s mid-term elections – Christine O’Donnell, a Tea Party-backed dissident Republican, beat a moderate and establishment favourite to win the party’s nomination for vice-president Joe Biden’s old seat in the U.S. Senate.

O’Donnell is a perennial candidate and former abstinence counsellor, who promotes complete celibacy before marriage and has a fierce stance on guns (pro), government spending (anti), abortion (anti) and masturbation (anti – it’s a sin, she says).

Her strong beliefs had prompted many – especially local Republican leaders – to write her off as unelectable.

But then Sarah Palin, the former Republican vice-presidential candidate and a poster girl of the Tea Party movement, endorsed O’Donnell.

In a move that has proved electorally successful across the U.S., Mrs Palin described her as one of her ‘mama grizzlies’ – a term she has coined to describe her uncompromising conservative allies.

Grizzly bears may be common in the rough and ready Palin home state of Alaska, but in the more sophisticated environs of Delaware they are unheard of outside the zoo.

As the significance of O’Donnell’s victory (accompanied by similar Tea Party success in New York, where its multi-millionaire candidate, Carl Paladino, won a Republican primary for state governor) sank in yesterday, there was a feeling across America that if it can happen in Delaware, it can happen anywhere.

O’Donnell trilled from the podium to huge cheers: ‘Don’t ever underestimate the power of we the people.’ There is fat chance of that now.

Carl Paladino has won a Republican primary for state governor in New York

‘Nightmare’ was a common verdict among political commentators — not for Mr Obama’s Democrats, who are chuckling at the idea of a divided opposition, but for the Republican Party.

It sees its hopes of grabbing power in Congress and crushing key Obama immigration and global warming legislation dashed by the election of Tea Partiers who have little hope of attracting the crucial independent floating voters when it comes to the election in November.

That is why the Tea Party movement is such a mixed blessing for the Republicans.

Yes, its energy has galvanised the party as Obamania once electrified the Democrats. But it also has the potential to frighten away moderate, mainstream voters, disillusioned with the Obama regime.

Republicans shouted themselves hoarse insisting that O’Donnell, who has a history of financial problems and dubious claims about her education, would be unelectable in November — but the Tea Partiers still backed her.

For them, keeping the Democrats out of power matters less than ideological purity.

But then commentators admit to being baffled by the Tea Party movement. Much of the problem is that it is hardly a party at all — in fact, it is more a network of like-minds than an organisation.

Completely decentralised, true to its libertarian principles, it has no real leader (every Tea Partier is his or her own spokesman) and no formal membership structure.

If you call yourself a Tea Partier, then, hey, you are one.

More than 200 leaders of local tea parties, in an umbrella group called Tea Party Patriots, discuss developments every week in a conference call, but that is as far as any party hierarchy goes.

Jonathan Rauch, an academic who has studied the movement, describes the average member as ‘white, bright and right’ – a well-educated conservative who is now an independent, even if he or she generally supports Republican policies.

Accusations of racial exclusivity have dogged the movement, but Rauch says members are largely white as few blacks and Hispanics are conservatives.

Membership numbers are vague, but there are estimated to be tens of thousands of activists.

The movement itself claims to have 17million supporters, but that could include anyone who has ever expressed sympathy with the Tea Party philosophy.

As for that philosophy, congressional candidates are expected to follow a ten-point Contract From America agenda aimed at making Washington more accountable.

Continue reading

NYT: Tea Partiers Bring Cause to Washington

By KATE ZERNIKE

WASHINGTON — Thousands of Tea Party supporters marched to the foot of Capitol Hill on Sunday, declaring their determination to topple the Democratic majority in Congress on Election Day.

“If we do not succeed in November, all that once was good and great about this country could someday be gone,” warned Representative Mike Pence of Indiana, the chairman of the House Republican Conference. He added, “Let’s give them a November that they never forget.”

The event, organized by FreedomWorks, a libertarian advocacy group that has helped the Tea Party grow, was a repeat of a march on Washington that was a defining moment for the nascent movement a year ago. And it was intended as a political bookend to the religious revival that Glenn Beck called for at the Lincoln Memorial two weeks ago, drawing many of the same people.

This crowd was not nearly as large as the one that marched last year, or the one at Mr. Beck’s rally. Ending up on the western slope of the Capitol, it stretched back, stopping just short of the National Mall. But in many ways the crowd was louder than the one that had amassed for Mr. Beck. He had asked people to leave signs at home; FreedomWorks encouraged people to bring their signs, and to get loud.

The crowd cheered wildly as speakers celebrated the victories of Tea Party candidates who have upset establishment candidates in Republican primaries, and proclaimed that the Tea Party would now turn its ire against the Democrats.

“I believe we’ve got the Republican Party’s attention — we’ve been beating the establishment all over the country,” said Dick Armey, the former Republican House majority leader and the chairman of FreedomWorks, to a burst of cheering. “It’s time we give the same lesson to the other party.”

Mr. Pence taunted the Democratic leadership: “A recession is when your neighbor loses his job. A depression is when you lose your job. A recovery is when Nancy Pelosi loses her job.”

As the crowd cheered, he gave a taste of what a Republican-led Congress might look like, calling for a repeal of the health care overhaul legislation “lock, stock and barrel,” and an end to “bailouts, once and for all.”

Speakers talked about the 10 points in the so-called Contract From America, a Tea Party manifesto that was created online as people proposed and then voted on what they wanted Congress to do. The provisions include a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget and requiring all legislation to state the exact provision of the Constitution that gives Congress the power to enact such a law.

“We run things,” Ryan Hecker, a young Tea Party activist from Houston who conceived of the contract, told the crowd. “Not only should we be listened to, we should be shown deference.”

Continue reading at the New York Times

USAToday: ‘Tea Party’ rallies put focus on November races.

By Gregory Korte, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — “Tea Party” activists marched down Pennsylvania Avenue on Sunday, almost taking for granted that their movement will help change Congress during elections Nov. 2.

The date they’re more focused on: Nov. 3.

A roster of speakers — talk show hosts, bloggers and politicians, but mostly grass-roots organizers — told a crowd on the west lawn of the Capitol that they can’t let up if they want to repeal the health care law, cut spending and lower taxes.

“It’s also time to talk tough to the Republican Party, which all too often thinks this movement is about what’s good for their careers, rather than what’s good for America,” said Bob McGuffie, the Connecticut activist who helped develop the strategy of disrupting congressional meetings last year in an effort to derail the health care bill.

“We’re not here to split the Republican Party. We’re here to take it over,” he told a crowd whose yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” flags were as ubiquitous as the U.S. flag.

“I believe we’ve gotten the Republican Party’s attention, because we’ve beaten the establishment all over the country,” said Dick Armey, the former House minority leader who now chairs FreedomWorks, a 26-year-old conservative group that organized Sunday’s rally.

Activists held similar rallies Sunday in Sacramento and St. Louis. Dampened by morning rain, attendance in Washington was considerably smaller than either last year’s Sept. 12 event or last month’s gathering by talk show host Glenn Beck.

The rally lacked the household names — such as Beck or former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin— that have highlighted previous events.

“I’m sure the press is going to focus on the numbers, but the only numbers that matter are 51, 218 and one,” said Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., referring to the majorities needed in the Senate, House and White House.

“Government belongs to those who show up,” Armey said in an interview. “The only people showing up are the small-government conservatives.”

Continue reading at USAToday

WSJ: A Tea Party Manifesto

The movement is not seeking a junior partnership with the Republican Party. It is aiming for a hostile takeover.

By DICK ARMEY AND MATT KIBBE

On Feb. 9, 2009, Mary Rakovich, a recently laid-off automotive engineer, set out for a convention center in Fort Myers, Fla. with protest signs, a cooler of water and the courage of her convictions. She felt compelled to act, having grown increasingly alarmed at the explosion of earmarks, bailouts and government spending in the waning years of the Bush administration. President Barack Obama, joined by then-Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, was in town promoting his plan to spend a trillion dollars in borrowed money to “stimulate” the economy.

Mary didn’t know it, but she was on the front lines of a grass-roots revolution that was brewing across the nation. More than 3,000 miles away, Keli Carender, a young Seattle school teacher and a member of a local comedy improv troupe, was feeling equally frustrated. She started to organize like-minded citizens. “Our nation’s fiscal path is just not sustainable,” she said. “You can’t continue to spend money you don’t have indefinitely.”

Today the ranks of this citizen rebellion can be counted in the millions. The rebellion’s name derives from the glorious rant of CNBC commentator Rick Santelli, who in February 2009 called for a new “tea party” from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. By doing so he reminded all of us that America was founded on the revolutionary principle of citizen participation, citizen activism and the primacy of the individual over the government. That’s the tea party ethos.

The tea party movement has blossomed into a powerful social phenomenon because it is leaderless—not directed by any one mind, political party or parochial agenda.

The criteria for membership are straightforward: Stay true to principle even when it proves inconvenient, be assertive but respectful, add value and don’t taking credit for other people’s work. Our community is built on the Trader Principle: We associate by mutual consent, to further shared goals of restoring fiscal responsibility and constitutionally limited government. These were the principles that enabled the Sept. 12, 2009 taxpayer march on Washington to be one of the largest political protests in the history of our nation’s capital.

The many branches of the tea party movement have created a virtual marketplace for new ideas, effective innovations and creative tactics. Best practices come from the ground up, around kitchen tables, from Facebook friends, at weekly book clubs, or on Twitter feeds. This is beautiful chaos—or, as the Nobel Prize-winning economist F.A. Hayek put it, “spontaneous order.”

Decentralization, not top-down hierarchy, is the best way to maximize the contributions of people and their personal knowledge. Let the leaders be the activists who have the best knowledge of local personalities and issues. In the real world, this is common sense. In Washington, D.C., this is considered radical.

The big-government crowd is drawn to the compulsory nature of centralized authority. They can’t imagine an undirected social order. Someone needs to be in charge—someone who knows better. Big government is audacious and conceited.

By definition, government is the means by which citizens are forced to do that which they would not do voluntarily. Like pay high taxes. Or redistribute tax dollars to bail out the broken, bloated pension systems of state government employees. Or purchase, by federal mandate, a government-defined health-insurance plan that is unaffordable, unnecessary or unwanted.

For the left, and for today’s Democratic Party, every solution to every perceived problem involves more government—top-down dictates from bureaucrats presumed to know better what you need. Tea partiers reject this nanny state philosophy of redistribution and control because it is bankrupting our country.

While the tea party is not a formal political party, local networks across the nation have moved beyond protests and turned to more practical matters of political accountability. Already, particularly in Republican primaries, fed-up Americans are turning out at the polls to vote out the big spenders. They are supporting candidates who have signed the Contract From America, a statement of policy principles generated online by hundreds of thousands of grass-roots activists.

Continue reading at the Wall Street Journal