Does the GOP Have a Tea Party Problem?

Activists angry over Republicans' lame-duck compromising

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Many wondered not whether the Tea Party would become a headache for Republicans, but when. The answer might be: right now. John Boehner hasn't even claimed his speakerly throne yet, and already there are "signs of a rift" between top Republicans and the Tea Party that helped them win a majority in the House, ABC News' Huma Khan reports. Tea Partiers aren't happy about compromises on the Bush tax cuts, food safety, gays in the military, and other compromises that they see as more of politics as usual.

Top Tea Party leaders Jenny Beth Martin and Mark Meckler accused the GOP of being "stuck in the politics of the past," and ignoring "the clearly expressed will of their supporters" in a Politico op-ed. They were outraged by the choice of pork-loving Rep. Hal Rogers to chair the appropriations committee "what can only be interpreted as a direct affront to the millions of tea partiers who provided much of the fuel that brought them to the majority."

So how far does this Tea Party discontent go?

  • Boehner on Shaky Ground, The Daily Beast's Benjy Sarlin reports. "Boehner owes no small part of his imminent promotion to the speaker's office to the Tea Party, whose support he courted early and often en route to a landslide takeover of the House. But he may lose that support before he's even begun to wield his new power. ... Expectations will be sky high for the new majority to slash the budget, and Republicans' relatively modest proposals in their Pledge to America may not be enough to cut it with the activist base, many of whom were critical of its limited scope."
  • The Movement Is Too Hard to Control, The Agonist writes. The Republicans' southern strategy "divided the nation into three groups: economic royalists, socially conservative Christians, and the rest of us. Power within the GOP rested firmly in the economic royalty camp, with the occasional intruder like Pat Robertson allowed a seat at the table ... The Tea Party is a curious admixture of both camps." In addition, "effectively, the Tea Party is a movement without a leader and many people vying for that leadership. But it may be too late: success happened so quickly for the chaotic movement that even early adopters like Dick Armey have had trouble herding the kittens."
  • We Need the Tea Party, The New Hampshire Union Leader writes. "The truth is that without the constant vigilance currently provided by what can loosely be called the Tea Party movement, Republicans would be just as happy as Democrats to squander taxpayer money. They are only acting frugal now because they know they're being closely watched, so keep watching."
  • The Tea Party Killed the DREAM Act, Newsweek's Mickey Kaus notes. The midterms were a big win for the Tea Party, and "nothing like fresh heads on pikes to, er, reinforce a persuasive (to my mind) policy argument." Pressure from the Tea Partiers probably helped keep Republicans in the "no" camp, he figures.
  • Could They Challenge Democrats in Primaries, Too? Digby wonders at Hullabaloo. Tea Partiers "predict primary challenges for Democrats from the right. This isn't the first time I've heard this, by the way. Now I don't know if it's just wishful thinking, but in the age of Citizen's United, it seems to me that shennanigans are possible with this sort of thing."
  • Changing the Little Things  "Earlier today," Slate's Dave Weigel reports, "some Hill staffers attended the first of four staggered meetings on how to write a new clause into legislation that explains why, exactly, the legislation is constitutional. This was a big Tea Party demand that Republicans ran on, and they're not welching."
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