When last we checked in with the Tea Party movement, it had claimed victories throughout the nation in the midterm elections and served notice on Republicans and Democrats alike that things in Washington were going to change. No more earmarks. No more secret negotiations. No more deficit spending. No more lobbyists running Congress.
So where are we now?
Dana Milbank of the Washington Post reports on the education of Tea Party darling Kristi Noem:
“When the good people of South Dakota voted last month to send Republican Kristi Noem to Congress, they probably believed that she would give no quarter to the lobbyists and special interest groups who enjoyed, as she put it, “throwing money at the feet of a member of Congress.”
But since she defeated Democratic Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (in part by making an issue of Herseth Sandlin’s marriage to a lobbyist), Noem has hired as her new chief of staff . . . a lobbyist! And on Tuesday afternoon, she was the guest of honor at a “Meet & Greet” with Washington high-rollers at the powerhouse lobbying firm Barbour Griffiths Rogers. Once these boys start throwing money at Noem’s feet, she’ll soon be chin deep in lobbyist greenbacks.”
Closer to home, the folks over at Peachpundit note that anti-earmark fervor already seems to be waning among some:
Here is Senator Saxby Chambliss precisely one month ago:
“I have consistently voted for the elimination of earmarks in the past and will support the earmark-moratorium resolution today.”
And here he is today:
“I recently voted in support of an earmark moratorium to help reduce federal spending in the next Congress. As I have previously stated, while this is not the answer to our budget woes, it is a good start.”
Why, then, Senator, do you personally have 42 earmarks in the Omnibus Spending Bill?”
Johnny Isakson, for the record, requested 24 earmarks in the bill. Among other things, the two sought $5 million to support dredging in the Savannah River, $1.25 million for a “biofuels, biopower and biomaterials initiative,” $2 million for “Atlanta environmental infrastructure” and $300,000 for “meth prevention and awareness.” They were joined in many of those requests by Democrats in the Georgia House delegation.
The Financial Times notes that no more 30 House Republicans are expected to oppose the tax-cut compromise with Obama, even though the deal reinstates the estate tax, adds to the deficit and maintains unemployment benefits at the 99-week maximum, items that have angered Tea Party activists.
(Oh, and the deal was also negotiated secretly behind closed doors by the White House and the very same Republican congressional leaders who had campaigned on openness and transparency, and had howled about “backroom deals” on health-care reform.)
“The idea that this massive tax and spend bill has not yet even been written but may be voted on by the Senate . . . is appalling, and has rightfully drawn the anger of Tea Party activists, an anger that will not be diminished,” said a blog posting by the Tea Party Patriots group.
RedState.com, another conservative blog, blasted the inclusion of – and Republican support for – ethanol subsidies in the tax bill. “If Republicans lack the will to strike out at the heart of the dependency and welfare state after a stunning electoral victory, then when will they?” it said.
However, the FT also quotes Adam Brandon, spokesman for FreedomWorks, the corporate astroturf “handler” of much of the Tea Party, as claiming that the deal is good, that “we – the small government conservatives – rolled the president. Let’s take our victory.”
I think that’s the most telling comment of all. Having helped to gin up the Tea Party movement, FreedomWorks is now selling it out in defense of the Republican establishment. After all, you can describe the tax compromise in many ways, but calling it a victory for small-government conservatives takes some fancy spinning indeed.