Tea Party leaders threatened members on CR, witness says

Local Tea Party leaders threatened House Republican freshmen with primary challenges if they did not vote against short-term spending bills during a Tea Party Caucus meeting at the end of February, a meeting participant revealed.

Fiscal expert Stan Collender, who attended the Feb. 28 meeting, detailed the confrontation in a new post on his blog, Capital Gains and Games.

The Tea Party Caucus meeting was addressed by Jennifer Stefano, a leader of the suburban Philadelphia Tea Party movement; Billie Tucker, a founder of the Jacksonville, Fla., First Coast Tea Party; and Jamie Radtke, former chairwoman of Virginia Tea Party Patriots.

Collender writes "tea party state chairs openly threatened the reelection of the tea party supporting members of Congress who attended. This was anything but subtle."

He adds that meeting was revealing because the activists “instructed” the members not to vote for short-term spending bills. That week, six members did so and when the next continuing resolution (CR) came to a vote, 54 Republicans voted against it.

“Actually, ‘instructed’ is not strong enough; what they said to the members is best described as nonnegotiable demands. They insisted that no one vote for that first extension of the CR unless it included a provision defunding healthcare reform (they called it “Obamacare’). They also unequivocally insisted that no one vote to increase the debt ceiling. And, they were absolutely adamant that the spending cuts in the continuing resolution that the House members were so proud of were insignificant and that entitlements had to be tackled immediately,” Collender writes.

He adds that “the tea party folks – both members of Congress and others – do not trust House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) or Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) not to sell out their agenda.”

“Given what I heard a the caucus meeting, Boehner and Cantor might both get primary challengers from tea party candidates in 2012,” he adds.

Collender concludes that House leaders may have to shut down the government next month to satisfy the Tea Party.