The Tea Party platform was all about smaller government and less spending. Now that they helped Republicans sweep into the House and Senate, the deficit is all but forgotten. Let's see how the mainstream Republican party is adhering to Tea Party values. Hint: not closely at all.
Cutting a deal on tax cuts while extending unemployment insurance
It seems everyone hates the deal President Obama cut with the Republicans on tax cuts, but it's a toss-up as to whether progressives hate it quite as much as the Tea Party. Jim DeMint and the Club for Growth came out against it with some of the most cynical, hypocritical reasoning I've ever seen. They want the top tax rate to be made permanent with no offset, but insist that the middle class tax cuts and unemployment extensions must be paid for. All that talk about the deficit is just that. Talk.
Leadership positions and earmark spending
Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) has been appointed chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. Rogers is one of the biggest earmarkers in Congress, earning the title of "Porker of the Month" in August. Not only that, but true to hypocritical form, Rogers requested funds appropriated as part of the Affordable Care Act while swearing during his campaign that he would move to repeal or defund it.
This one may be a little tough for the Tea Party to attack too hard, since Ron Paul is one of four Republican Congressmen to request earmarks.
Tea party purists like Ron Paul and presumably his son Rand oppose both wars and advocate cuts in defense spending. This is one area where I happen to agree with them, as do many others who oppose the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. And once again, Republicans have betrayed those core Tea Party values by putting Buck McKeon in charge of the Armed Services Committee.
McKeon's views on such issues as Don't Ask, Don't Tell (he's against its repeal) and defense spending put him directly at odds with Defense Secretary Robert Gates. He has described Gates' thinking on defense reform as "shortsighted and the wrong path," arguing that the US should spend whatever it takes to prevail in Iraq and Afghanistan, while simultaneously investing to prepare for future wars. "The word 'tradeoff' hasn't really been in McKeon's vocabulary," observes the Center for a New American Security's Travis Sharp.
The differing philosophies of McKeon and Gates on defense spending are likely to produce some confrontational hearings. Sharp also predicts that the California lawmaker will attempt to make an issue of the Obama administration's plans for a gradual pullout from Afghanistan by hauling top commanders before the committee to testify about the wisdom of setting a date to begin withdrawing troops. McKeon, for his part, has said that a deadline undermines US efforts in the eyes of its NATO allies and Afghans, and gives the Taliban every reason to sit tight and pounce when the time is right.
McKeon's defense spending zeal is no surprise. Since his election in 1992, the defense and aerospace industries have practically bankrolled his political career. And over the years, he's returned the favor, directing millions in pork-barrel projects to defense contractors like Lockheed Martin and Boeing.
So many betrayals, so little time. Will the Tea Party rebel against the Republicans? Stay tuned...