Todd Cefaratti, the president of TheTeaParty.net, has a message for Republicans and Democrats alike: “This is just the beginning. If you think the tea party’s dead, you ain’t seen nothing yet.”
At a press conference inside the Capitol Hill Club in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday afternoon, Cefarratti’s organization and several House Republicans joined with Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) to decry House GOP leadership considering capitulating to Democratic efforts to raise taxes during the fiscal cliff negotiations. A more subtle message that carried throughout the presser, though, was that conservatives are trying to regain the mantle they had in 2010 with a return to true conservative principles that were all but abandoned over the past couple years.
“The Republican Party is the party of limited government and low taxation. I don’t think it’s time to change who we are or what we stand for. Some have said this whole idea of pledging not to raise taxes is a bad idea. I disagree,” Paul said. “I ran on that platform and I was elected because the voters of Kentucky want less spending, limited government and less taxation. I know of no other way to stimulate the economy than to leave more money in the private sector. If you want to stimulate the economy in Louisville, Kentucky, you leave more money in Louisville, Kentucky. Until they cut out the waste, the fraud, the abuse and the nightmare spending up here, why would we ever consider as Republicans thinking about raising taxes?”
Paul then rattled off a short list of what he considers wasteful Washington spending that needs to be eliminated before any talk of new revenue – or taxes – takes place. “Come to me when you’ve gotten rid of the $3 million you spent last year to watch monkeys on methamphetamine,” Paul said. “Come to me when you get rid of the $300,000 you spent last year developing a robotic squirrel to see if a rattlesnake will strike a robotic squirrel that’s not wagging its tail – apparently they couldn’t get any real squirrels to volunteer and not wag their tails. They spent nearly a half a million dollars developing a ‘menu for Mars.’ If you don’t have a job and you’re looking for a job, this is a good one: You get to go to Hawaii, you have to like food, and you sit around for a week and you think of things you’d like to eat if you were on Mars. There’s also a $5,000 fee you get paid as well. Interestingly enough, after all of that, they think pizza would be good on Mars.”
Georgia Republican Rep. Paul Broun seconded Paul’s notion. “I believe very firmly that we should not raise taxes on anybody for any reason,” Broun said at the presser. “The government has too much money. It’s doing too much in the way of taking away our liberty. I believe in constitutional limited government as our Founding Fathers meant it. We’ve got to stop the spending. We need to send powers back to the states or the people, as the Tenth Amendment says it should be. We can balance the budget. We can stop this fiscal insanity that’s going on here in Washington without raising any more revenue.”
Broun suggests real spending cuts could be achieved by shutting down the Departments of Education, Labor, and Commerce, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency.
“I want to get rid of wholesale parts of the federal government,” Broun said. “I want to get rid of the Department of Education, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Labor, and let’s get rid of the EPA while we’re doing it. Let’s really cut spending.”
This is the beginning of a renewed effort from conservatives to regain the control of messaging of the Republican Party and earn back their identity. After a brutal election season that saw GOP losses in the House – even though Republicans retained control of Congress’ lower chamber – losses in the Senate and a re-election of President Barack Obama, conservatives have felt a bit lost in the wilderness. They’ve needed leadership and it at least looks like it’s starting to come back together.
In addition to the bad election season, over the past couple years conservatives haven’t fared too well in negotiations over fiscal policy and other matters in dealing with the president. But it looks like there’s a core group of conservatives getting ready to bust out of their shells and take over the messaging at which House GOP leadership has thus far mostly failed. Paul and many of the other Republicans at Wednesday’s presser are trying to do that.
Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) said Obama and Democrats toss around “rhetoric” like claiming Republicans only want to “help their rich friends.”
“Well, I don’t have a lot of rich friends,” Gohmert said. “That is not what we’re about. We’re about trying to protect the principles on which this country was founded. We don’t want to protect the rich. We want to get back to a system where anybody in America can get rich.”
Louisiana Republican Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) pointed out that, since the current federal tax system was implemented in 1913 via the ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution, “in this entire time [since 1913] and even before that going back to the founding of this nation, not once has a Republican-controlled House of Representatives ever lifted the tax rates on the American citizens.”
“So, that means if we do it [raise taxes] here and now, that would be unprecedented,” Fleming added. Fleming laid this out in more detail in a Washington Times op-ed he published late Wednesday evening.
“Here’s the question for my fellow Republicans: Do we want to be the first-ever GOP House majority to raise federal marginal income tax rates?” Fleming wrote in the Times.
Many of the more conservative members remain split on how to handle dissent from principle emanating from GOP leadership. Some members outright state that conservatives may rise up against House Speaker John Boehner if he breaks from principle, again, during the fiscal cliff negotiations.
Others, like Fleming, question whether a challenge to the speaker would be realistic.
“If he [Boehner] caves [on fiscal cliff negotiations], he’s going to have to get it passed with a lot of Democrat votes,” Fleming told Breitbart News after the press conference. “So, just like with the continuing resolutions, there’s anywhere from 40 to 80 to even 100 members on the conservative side who just simply vote against it, so it [a deal] gets passed only with Democrat help.”
Fleming said he doesn’t “sense” a movement coming against Boehner from the right. “While the Speaker may be less conservative than me, I’m not sure he’s less conservative than the caucus as a whole,” Fleming said. “I’ve never seen a measurement of where we fall. I know I’m to the right of the Speaker. But, there are people [in the House Republican conference] who actually fall to the left of the Speaker. His [Boehner’s] job is to move that dial back and forth until he gets 218 votes, even if he has to go to Democrats to get it.”
Paul said he’s suggested to conservative House members who are upset about failures from Republican leaders that “we should put forward what we’re for.”
“I think we should put forward a plan that says we want to extend the tax rates that we’ve had for 12 years, that we will reform entitlements, put that out there,” Paul said. “There are already bills out there that will reform Social Security and reform Medicare. And [we should propose ways to] cut significant spending. That’s what we’re for.”
“Instead, we come out as the party that’s for raising taxes just a little bit less,” Paul said of the current vision of the Republican Party’s leadership.