At a Tea Party town hall event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on Monday, Amy Kremer, Chairwoman of the Tea Party Express, which hosted the event, said that “if we want to change what is going on in Washington, you have to the change the players.”
Those who spoke at the event — Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), Rep Michele Bachmann (R-Minn), and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) — reiterated Kremer’s point throughout the evening.
Paul, who started the Tea Party caucus in the Senate (three Senators — Paul, Lee, and Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) — are members), said that critics of the Tea Party movement said that Tea Party backed candidates would be co-opted once they got to Washington.
To the contrary, Paul said that as soon as the Tea Party backed members got to Congress, the Republican caucus voted to end earmarks. Paul then said that when he heard President Obama come out against earmarks during his State of the Union address, he thought it “looks like we co-opted the President.”
And while Paul has gotten the buzz in his first months in Washington, Lee may be a more enduring workhorse. Lee said that Harry Reid was “absolutely mistaken” when he said the Tea Party would not last and said that “if we don’t de-fund ObamaCare, it will be a growing malignant tumor.”
West, in a passionate speech that was the best and most energetic of the night, said that “I’ve been to 13 different countries and 3 different combat zones and it does not get better than being an American citizen.”
He said he was sent to Washington to make sure his generation does not pass on a weaker and less prosperous America to the next generation.
Regarding immigration, West reiterated that “when [the] feds fail, states have the right to protect themselves.”
And on the raising of the debt ceiling, West said that he would not vote to raise the debt ceiling unless the GOP could leverage the looming vote on raising the debt ceiling to make permanent and lasting reforms on issues such as shoring up the country’s entitlement system.
King spoke on everything from auditing the federal reserve to dissecting and de-funding ObamaCare while Bachmann, who has been a darling of the Tea Party and particularly the Tea Party Express, effusively expressed her reverence for the country’s founding documents and the principles on which the country was founded.
The most fascinating speaker of the night, though, was Hatch. He is trying to avoid losing in a primary in 2012, a fate former Utah Senator Bob Bennett could not escape. Bennett lost his party’s primary in 2010, and Lee now holds Bennett’s seat and serves as a striking reminder to Hatch about the perils he faces in 2012.
Hatch was not initially listed on the event’s program, but he showed up and, in rhetoric that was different from the one often employed by one of the Senate’s elder statesmen, said “we are living in perilous times, we have run this country into the ground … with debt” … and “we got to get armed and get out there” to fight for fiscally sound policies.
Hatch also noted the importance of electing Republicans when it comes to nominating judges or influencing the selection of them, and said that there had never been a fiscally conservative majority in the Senate and that is what conservatives have to try to fight for.
Hatch also fought back against ObamaCare, stating that “if they allow individual mandate, [the federal government] can do [or force you to do] whatever they want.” Hatch said that liberty is based on limitations and without limitations liberty is put in danger.
At the end of the event, Kremer introduced Jamie Radtke, former leader of the Richmond, Va Tea Party and now aUnited States Senatorial candidate in Virginia. Radtke will face off against former Senator George Allen.
Those associated with the Tea Party will most likely want to send a Republican to the Senate for, as Kremer said, Washington can only be changed when different players are sent.
A fascinating question Tea Parties will have to ask in Virginia and Utah in this election cycle will be: which player will be the most effective person to send to Washington to fight for the principles dear to the Tea Party.