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Tea Party Criticism of Budget Plan Puts GOP in Tough Position

Dec. 16, 2013 - 03:45AM   |  
By JOHN T. BENNETT   |   Comments
Senate Republicans Speak To Media After Weekly Pol
Pro-defense GOP Sens. Mitch McConnell, center, and John Cornyn, right, are facing pressure from tea party groups over their positions regarding the budget compromise that was struck last week. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
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WASHINGTON — Tea party organizations are hammering a sequestration-easing bipartisan budget deal that sailed through the House last week, putting pressure on a handful of Republicans facing re-election next November.

Right-wing groups like the Tea Party Express, Tea Party Patriots, Heritage Action and RedState.org began criticizing Washington’s bipartisan spending and deficit-reduction resolution since the moment Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., announced it last Tuesday evening.

“In the name of seeking ‘common ground,’ both chambers — Senate wanting $1.058 trillion and the House wanting $967 billion — inched toward the middle,” the Tea Party Patriots said in a statement. “However, it is Americans who will be squeezed once again as those in Washington seek to spend more, not less.

“In the coming days, this deal will be hailed as a spending-cut solution that will help avert the eleventh-hour crisis of a government shutdown; however, America knows better than that,” the organization said. “Let’s call it what it is — a compromised plan that does NOTHING to stop the barreling, runaway train of more spending, driving our nation to bankruptcy.”

Other right-wing groups are pressuring lawmakers to keep in place all the remaining defense and domestic sequestration cuts.

“While no one was expecting a grand bargain, we hoped that the budget leaders would stand by the only fiscally responsible accomplishment of Obama’s presidency: Sequestration,” Tea Party Express Chairman Amy Kremer said. “This budget deal creates a faux peace in Washington, D.C., while burdening taxpayers by sweeping the impending fiscal crisis under the rug.

“If the sequestration was a baby step forward, this is a baby step backward,” Kremer said. “Americans deserve better than a compromise that continues excessive spending, adding fees in lieu of taxes.”

Those assessments followed a nearly immediate blasting of the deal by the influential Heritage Action political organization.

“In the coming days, members of Congress will have to explain to their constituents what exactly they achieved by increasing spending, increasing fees and offering up another round of promises waiting to be broken,” Michael Needham, CEO of the powerful Heritage Action group, wrote in a USA Today op-ed released just minutes after Murray and Ryan revealed their deal last Tuesday.

Those and other tea party groups have been conducting a steady and pointed campaign against the deal on Twitter ever since.

“CONTACT YOUR SENATORS! Tell Them to Vote “NO” on Cloture and to Filibuster the Bloated Ryan #BudgetDeal!” tweeted TeaParty.net.

Most of the right-wing tweets include links to specific senators’ twitter accounts, where voters can apply pressure directly to them ahead of a Senate vote this week that will decide the Ryan-Murray plan’s fate.

And that puts a handful of GOP senators who typically are pro-defense in a difficult position. Add to that group establishment Republican leaders who also typically have voted for a robust Defense Department.

Do they vote with the right-wing groups against the deal, which would help some turn back tea party primary challengers? Or do they vote for a deal that would hand the Pentagon over $30 billion now set to be cut during 2014 and 2015 via new rounds of sequestration?

In the tea party headlights are pro-defense senators up for re-election such as Senate Armed Services Committee member Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Senate Appropriations Defense subcommittee Chairman Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss.

Also under the gun ahead of the vote is Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and his top deputy, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.

It appears the tea party blitz is having an impact.

Graham on Thursday evening announced he will vote against the budget plan, saying a provision that alters military benefits to help shrink sequester cuts is a bridge too far.

Cornyn and McConnell also are opposed, with the former raising concerns that the Ryan-Murray plan would raise spending caps set by the 2011 Budget Control Act.

That has been a part of right-wing groups’ criticism of the plan.

The situation places Graham at odds with pro-defense GOP members in the House who voted for the plan. One is House Armed Services Committee Vice Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry of Texas, who told Defense News it is “a good deal for defense.”

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