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At The Local Level, Tea Party Activists’ Skepticism Turns To Anger On Budget Deal

Apr 28, 2011

by Jon Ward, HuffPost.com

MANCHESTER, N.H. – Gauging what the Tea Party thinks about any given topic is always difficult, since there is no real centralized leadership and even the nationally known groups have limited connections to the grassroots.

But the reaction to the budget deal being voted on in Washington Thursday–from Tea Party activists organizing at the local level here and in other places around the country–was universally negative.

“The [continuing resolution] was Washington as usual. We elected Republicans because we were tired of the behind-closed-door antics of the beltway boys and four months in we are right back where we started,” Andrew Hemingway, a 28-year-old small-business owner and the chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire, told The Huffington Post.

Hemingway has quickly become a sought-after Tea Party leader, with Republican presidential hopefuls ranging from former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) requesting audiences. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour was set to meet with Hemingway on Thursday for about 20 minutes, and he is organizing the meeting Monday between Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) and activists.

“This CR was a joke and I expected more of Speaker Boehner,” Hemingway said. He added that Pawlenty, in opposing the budget deal, “is standing with the American people and I am proud to stand with him.”

Much of the Tea Party was skeptical of the deal when it was reached Friday night, with House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) office trumpeting $38.5 billion in spending cuts. But as the exact number of those cuts has come into question, skepticism has turned into disappointment and anger.

“I wasn’t happy with the outcome last Friday night and am far less so after all this began to come to light. The disingenuous nature of this deal is staggering and seems to be just more business as usual in Washington,” said Doug Mainwaring, a real estate agent and local conservative activist in Bethesda, Md.

Mainwaring told HuffPost that “Boehner and the Republican leadership have frittered away a lot of the leverage they had.”

“I’m not sure they have the political willpower to accept the mandate that was handed them from the Tea Party last November,” Mainwaring said.

Jim Carley, a Tea Party activist and retiree in Des Moines, Iowa, told HuffPost that Republicans should have made Democrats vote against deeper spending cuts, “and you can hold them to the fire the next election.”

“But how do you hold them accountable when you are the one that caved?” he said.

National Tea Party groups were equally displeased.

“The deal was cut in a back room, announced without specifics, members supported it without specifics and without reading the bill (shocking, right?), and now it turns out not to be even as it was vaguely presented. Sickening,” said Mark Meckler, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots.

“And amidst all this, Speaker Boehner proclaims that there is ‘no daylight’ between he and the Tea Party. If he actually believes that, he must have his eyes closed,” Meckler told HuffPost.

But even among the grassroots, there was a recognition that bigger fights over the debt ceiling and the fiscal 2012 budget should become the focus of the GOP now, marking a willingness to swallow the weak tea that the budget deal for the current fiscal year now represents for them.

Bob MacGuffie, a conservative Tea Party activist in Connecticut, said the debt ceiling and the 2012 budget are “the main event.”

“This is the fight worth having,” MacGuffie said. “We want to engage in a ferocious battle over the debt ceiling and 2012 budget–bring it on–we’ll give the Republicans a spine by holding our bayonets firmly at their backs.”

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