By Molly K. Hooper - 04/15/10 12:29 AM EDT
The Tea Party is hosting a Tax Day rally on Thursday in Washington, but the Republicans leaders in the House and Senate are not invited.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (Ariz.), House Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio) and House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) were not asked to speak at the April 15 rally in front of the Washington Monument.
Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas), who chairs Freedom Works, told The Hill, “What [Tea Party activists] are saying to the officeholders and office-seekers is, ‘Earn your spurs and you can get on our stage.’ There’s an old line: ‘We don’t call you a cowboy until we can see you ride.’
“How did McConnell and Boehner vote on [the Troubled Asset Relief Program]? TARP has been the acid test,” Armey said.
Though the four Republican leaders won’t partake in the Thursday festivities, a handful of their colleagues were invited to fire up a crowd of possibly thousands, including third-ranking House GOP Rep. Mike Pence (Ind.), who voted against the Wall Street rescue measure.
Pence, however, will not be able to attend because he is introducing former President George W. Bush at an event in Indianapolis.
Republicans Reps. Tom Price (Ga.), Michele Bachmann (Minn.), Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), Steve King (Iowa) and Ron Paul (Texas) and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) are scheduled to address the crowd.
Price and Blackburn spoke at the Tea Party march on Washington last fall, an event organized by Armey’s advocacy group as well as a coalition of fiscally conservative issues groups and Tea Party Patriots.
Even though no Democratic lawmakers are scheduled to speak, organizers of Thursday’s event contend it is nonpartisan.
Mike Gaske, one of the national coordinators for the Tea Party Patriots, said, “This is the people’s event. This is not a Republican event. It is a time for the Tea Party movement to get up and represent what the Tea Party is all about.”
A recent poll showed that four of every 10 Tea Party members are either Democrats (13 percent) or independents (28 percent).
Politicians who voted for TARP hoping to crash the Tea Party gathering should think twice, said Max Pappas of Freedom Works.
“The Bush Wall Street bailout was the tipping point, and things kept getting worse from there and we have seen Republicans booed off a stage who voted for the bailout and then suddenly talking about how fiscally responsible they wanted to be,” Pappas said.
Hundreds of Tea Party Tax Day rallies are scheduled on Thursday.
As of Wednesday at press time, the umbrella Tea Party organization, Tea Party Patriots, listed over 700 separate events taking place across the nation.
Though they are not partaking in the festivities on the Mall, Cantor and Kyl plan to speak with local Tea Party groups on Thursday.
A spokesman for Kyl said the Arizona senator will be speaking with a local Tea Party group Thursday evening.
Neither McConnell’s nor Boehner’s office responded to requests for comment.
Cantor said Wednesday that he doesn’t hold any hard feelings, noting that he met with Armey on Wednesday and understands the former Texas legislator’s position.
Congressional Republican leaders are hoping to harness the energy of the Tea Party this fall in their effort to take back control of Congress.
Earlier this year, Boehner praised Tea Party activists on the first anniversary of the movement. At the time, Boehner said, “These great patriots have been at the forefront of a growing political rebellion born from the American people’s opposition to greater government control over our economy and our lives.”
Boehner added, “It’s not enough, however, for Republicans to simply voice respect for what the Tea Partiers are doing, praise their efforts and participate in their rallies. Republicans must listen to them, stand with them and walk among them.”
Later that month, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Democrats and Tea Party members share some of the same views.