Tea Party Budget Politics

September 14, 2010 | Last updated: July 31, 2020

At The Daily Beast, Benjy Sarlin reports that Tea Party-affiliated candidates might force Republicans to get specific on where they would cut the country’s spending. To boot, Rand Paul, the GOP candidate for a Kentucky Senate seat, promises to filibuster any deficit-increasing budget:

[W]hile harping on the deficit is easy when the other party is running up the bills, it’s a lot tougher when the country’s checkbook rests in your hands — and with the GOP poised to potentially retake Congress, that time may be approaching.

For some in the Tea Party movement, the standard they plan to judge the party’s progress by is sky high. A spokesman for Rand Paul, the Tea Party-backed Senate candidate in Kentucky, said Paul “will vote against and filibuster any unbalanced budget proposal in the Senate.”

Making the task of reducing the deficit even tougher, Republican lawmakers are pushing to extend $678 billion of Bush-era tax cuts for high-income earners, and many conservative activists are calling for further tax breaks as well. Paul is already warning conservatives not to be fooled if Republicans opt only for the more popular tax cuts while punting on the spending side.

“We as Republicans have taken the easy way out a lot of times,” Paul wrote in a recent Facebook post. “We vote to cut taxes but we don’t ever vote to cut any spending. Because as soon as you do, as soon as you bring up a program, it’s somebody’s program and they love it.”

Other Tea Party leaders are using similar benchmarks to judge the next Congress. “I personally think a balanced budget is imperative and I think there’s tremendous support for a balanced budget,” said Mark Meckler, a spokesman for the Tea Party Patriots. Lawmakers who vote for anything less will “see a lot of frustration out there in the electorate if they do that.”

During the Bush years, Republicans routinely passed unbalanced budgets (or passed no budget at all, but planned an unbalanced fiscal year), choosing not to offset the cost of the Bush tax cut or the two wars.