Even as the House Republican Conference looks to sell the public on its new-found spending restraint, we learned that earmark requests for the Congressional Tea Party Caucus—whose members hoped to position as a leader on spending—had crested the $1 billion mark. In a op-ed today for Fox News, I warn legislators that voters—in particular the anti-big government activists whose enthusiasm they’re looking to coopt with cutesy caucuses—won’t swallow another Republican-led House that spends like a drunken sailor on shore leave.
Earmarking Republicans should spend less time pursuing their Tea Party merit badges in anticipation of primary challenges next cycle and more time honoring the campaign spending pledges they made this season.
“I’m not a big spender anymore, promise. I joined the Tea Party Caucus, you see”:
At the outset of the group’s formation, its founding member, Minnesota firebrand Rep. Michelle Bachman, said the caucus would be policy-oriented, promoting the strict fiscal conservative orthodoxy that had become the trademark of the Tea Party movement.
Skeptics, however, criticized the caucus as an establishment attempt to co-opt the grassroots, earning for some unfaithful Republicans a Tea Party merit badge and undeserved conservative political identity in advance of next season’s primaries. Neither Speaker-elect John Boehner nor Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor pledged membership.
It seems their skepticism was founded, with a slew of earmarking Republicans having found their way into the caucus.
Pledging caucuses is something of a ritual for freshman legislators keen on crafting a unique political persona in a sea of big fish. Beyond the immediate political options like Bachman’s Tea Party group, legislators can join the 30-something working group, the Bike Caucus or the Congressional Submarine Caucus.
Legislators join these groups because their interests—political and personal, as is presumably the case for members of the Submarine Caucus—converge.
It’s for that reason one would be hard-pressed to find a moderate, Blue Dog Democrat among the ranks of the Progressive Caucus. And yet the biggest of big spending Republicans have joined the Tea Party Caucus.
Their efforts to enfold the movement’s enthusiasm while abandoning its agenda is a dangerous gambit. It’s also a losing one, as Republicans might learn in two years when their already-fragile coalition crumbles.
Read the article in its entirety at FOX News.