01 Apr 2011 Tea Party Not to Blame for Budget Breakdown, by Deneen Borelli
Throughout the recent budget debate, liberals blamed the impasse over the final numbers on the tea party movement.
This progressive political strategy served a two-fold objective. First, by assigning responsibility for the failing budget negotiations on the tea party, liberals hoped to avoid any culpability in the morass. Second, if there was a government slowdown, they want any public hardships blamed on anyone but themselves.
After years of trying to label the tea party movement as extremist, liberals hoped that shuttered museums, national park closures and concerns about grandma not getting her Social Security check would turn public opinion against the social movement responsible for ending liberals’ virtual monopoly on political power in Washington.
With the potential loss of the Senate and executive branch next year, liberals are looking for the political equivalent of kryptonite to weaken the relative superpower of the tea party movement.
Given the high stakes of a government slowdown and an opportunity to exploit the crisis for political gain, it was not shocking to hear about the liberal’s strategy to blame the tea party come straight from the mouth of Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
In a recent conference call with Senate colleagues in which he unknowingly laid out the strategy to reporters who were also on the call, Schumer instructed that the spin was to blame the tea party movement for conservative senators sticking to legislation already passed in the House of Representatives that cut a mere $61 billion in spending. “I always use the word ‘extreme,'” he said. “That is what the caucus instructed me to use this week.”
Schumer followed his marching orders as dutifully as Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL). Durbin, commenting about House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), said, “And he has to tell his tea party ‘roughriders’ to put their horses in the barn. Save this argument for another day.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) can’t open his mouth these days without slamming the tea party movement.
The irony, of course, is that it’s not the tea party’s fault that, in April of 2011, Congress was sill haggling over the budget due in September of 2010. The accountability for not having a budget resides fully with President Obama and his allies on Capitol Hill, who controlled the legislative agenda with a vast majority until this past January.
Like Obamacare, liberals could have used their political advantage to ram a budget through Congress and Obama could have signed it.
But the budget was not a priority. Instead, Obama and his progressive congressional allies spent their political capital and time having the government take over our nation’s health care system and trying to legislate fossil fuels out of existence through a “cap-and-trade” scheme. A budget just didn’t fit into this busy progressive agenda.
Liberals’ failure to act left it up to the new congressional leadership. The conservative House passed a budget in February, but the Senate — still controlled by liberals — had not passed anything similar.
Words can lie, but numbers don’t. In context, cutting $61 billion — or the $100 billion wanted by the tea party — from a federal budget expected to spend $3.8 trillion is far from extreme.
The sheer fact that liberals threatened a government slowdown over a mere 1.6 percent cut in the total budget just reeks of political shenanigans.
As opposed to the last government slowdown, liberals misplayed their hand. Clinton-era slowdowns hurt conservatives, and that’s what the liberals expected this time. What they are not considering is that debt was not a concern back then. Fear of the exploding national deficit — a key tea party rallying point — is on virtually everyone’s mind these days.
Moreover, overall progressive demonization of the tea party movement is not working. It didn’t work when they tried to marginalize and discredit the movement by calling its members racists and it’s not working now as they try to blame the tea party movement for the lack of a budget deal.
More problematic for Obama and company is that more Americans are siding with the tea party, and this rise seems to correlate with increasing frustration over Congress.
According to polling conducted by Rasmussen Reports:
• 49 percent of voters believe the tea party movement is having a positive effect on the nation;
• 48 percent of likely U.S. voters say that their opinions on major issues match the average tea party member more than average member of Congress; and
• 45 percent think tea party members understand the problems facing America better than the average member of Congress.
Tea party activism is the driving force demanding accountability from the government that serves the people.
Liberal efforts to play political word games and smear tactics is not a substitute for an effective political strategy to meet the challenges facing Americans.
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Deneen Borelli is a fellow for the Project 21 black leadership network and a Fox News Channel contributor. Comments may be sent to [email protected]. This commentary previously appeared on the Fox News web site.
Published by the National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints permitted provided source is credited. New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21, other Project 21 members, or the National Center for Public Policy Research, its board or staff.