The impact of the Tea Party movement on establishment Republicans was clear in the unveiling Thursday of the GOP’s “A Pledge to America.”
Although some House Republican leaders distance themselves from the grassroots movement, the group’s driving principles of smaller government, less spending and lower taxes make up 42 of the 45 pages in the Pledge.
The grassroots Tea Party—which is a reference to the Boston Tea Party revolt against Britain and an acronym for “Taxed Enough Already”—sprang up in 2009 to protest excessive government spending and taxation. The movement does not have a central leadership body, but the Tea Party Patriot group is one of the largest in the organization. The group’s website cites its “three core values” as “Fiscal Responsibility, Constitutionally Limited Government and Free Markets.”
House Republican leaders unveiled the “Pledge to America” on Thursday at a small business—the Tart Lumber Company—in Sterling, Va. “Our pledge to America is that the Republicans stand ready to get it done, and beginning today,” said House Minority Leader John Boehner (R.-Ohio).
“The American people are speaking out like never before. They’re concerned about the future of our nation and the future for their children. And they see a government in Washington that isn’t listening, doesn’t get it, and frankly the American people think that Washington doesn’t really care. We’re here to put forth a new governing agenda built by listening to the American people that offers a new way forward,” said Boehner.
Boehner never said “Tea Party” at the jam-packed media event, but afterwards, he walked across the street to meet with Tea Party supporters who had gathered on their own. Boehner, in a blue shirt and flanked by Capitol police, walked across the Tart Lumber parking lot to the Tea Partiers chanting, “We Love Speaker Boehner!”
Thanks for being involved in our democracy, Boehner told the small crowd. “What I see here is what I’ve seen all over the country. People being engaged. Just like all of you. And if the American people stay engaged, congress will do exactly what you demand. “
A man in the crowd gave Boehner a silver tea kettle.
“Can I keep this as a symbol?” Boehner asked. The crowd cheered. As Boehner walked back across the parking lot carrying the tea kettle, the Tea partiers chanted, “Thank you Speaker Boehner!”
The House Chief Deputy Whip Kevin McCarthy (R.-Calif.), who was the pledge’s architect, would not give the Tea Party credit by name for influencing the document.
When asked by HUMAN EVENTS if the Tea Party had an impact on the pledge, McCarthy demurred. “Well it was really the country, with American speaking out with town halls,” he said. “When people came into ‘America Speaking Out,’ we didn’t ask their party affiliation.”
As Tea Party supporters cheered loudly outside the parking lot of Tart Lumber, McCarthy conceded that “their voices have been heard.”
“Look it, they showed up. What’d we get, 24-hour notice of where we are going to be?” McCarthy said. “These people care about their country. They care about where the jobs are going. They are concerned about how much spending. And now they see at least a proposal and a pledge to change the direction of this country.”
Other members of GOP House leadership were more willing to give credit to the Tea Party movement for affecting the contents of the Pledge.
“The Tea Party’s impact began a year ago August where they made it clear that they did not want a government takeover of healthcare,” said Rep. Bill Cassidy (R- La.), who is a practicing physician.
“I think they have been listened to. They’ve been heard,” Cassidy told HUMAN EVENTS. “And now the challenge is to implement that concern regarding growth of government debt. And just the kind of sense that government is out of control.”
“As a conservative Republican,” Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R.-Tex.) told HUMAN EVENTS,” I believe the Tea Party movement is very healthy for America. It may just help save America.”
The ranking Republican on the Committee on Financial Services, Hensarling said “I think the Tea Party had a big role” in formulating the “Pledge To America.”
Republicans in Washington avoid attaching their names to the Tea Party movement, most likely because the Tea Partiers are not well- organized for message management and party discipline. As Hensarling said, “Let me not associate myself with everything said by somebody who puts ‘Tea Party’ on their business card since there are some in the national media who want to try to do that.”
Hensarling explained that the Tea Party is “not a monolithic movement. It is organic; it is real. It is diffused, but its people care desperately about constitutional government, limited government, fiscal sanity and preserving the American dream.”