The Tea Party, Debt & Insufferable Intransigence

With the resolution of the Debt Ceiling “crisis” coming down to the wire, one thing is certain — if both Democrats and the Tea Party oppose a proposed solution, then that is almost indisputable evidence that the solution is both conservative AND reasonable.  And, at this point, the only solution that has any chance of being passed into law and signed by President Obama is one that is the most conservative AND reasonable. 

It’s understandable why the Democrats — who are mostly to the left-of-center — and Tea Partiers — many of whom are to the far right of center — would oppose that which is conservative (Democrat opposed) and reasonable (Tea Partiers).  But, in the final climactic days leading up to default day (August 2), both groups appear more willing to allow America to default if they don’t get all that they want and more.

With divided government, that is simply not going to happen.  That is the reality and, reasonable people understand that reality.  In today’s National Review Online, both Charles Krauthammer (here) and Mona Charen (here) have spot on articles arguing for the passage of Speaker Boehner’s debt reduction plan.  In pointing out the obvious, Krauthammer writes:

“And under our constitutional system, you cannot govern from one house alone. Today’s resurgent conservatism, with its fidelity to constitutionalism, should be particularly attuned to this constraint, imposed as it is by a system of deliberately separated — and mutually limiting — powers.  Given this reality, trying to force the issue — trying to turn a blocking minority into a governing authority — is not just counter-constitutional in spirit but self-destructive in practice.”

But, self-destruction behavior is exactly what the Tea Party politicians are practicing this week.  Instead of supporting Boehner’s plan — even if it is not ideal — some within the Tea Party Movement would rather stand athwart history and spout nonsense.  Much like John Cusack’s tweets, the inane things coming out of the mouths of some Senators and Representatives is mind-boggling.  Mona Charen shares but a few in her article:

“Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.) vowed that he would not vote to raise the debt ceiling until a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution passed. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R., Utah) explained his unwillingness to back Boehner’s bill this way: “I really truly worry that the debt is one of the single greatest threats to the United States of America. That we’re talking about a problem that is multitrillion dollars in its depth and I think we ought to be cutting more. I just don’t think it goes far enough.”

Of course, this is the same Senator Paul who publicly questioned parts of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.  And, yes, I am aware that he later — under heavy pressure — “clarified” his remarks.  However, his past comments on the Civil Rights Act, coupled with his present comments on passage of a Balanced Budget Amendment, reveals someone who maybe intelligent and principled, but lacking in common sense.

But, it is common-sense conservatism that we need in Washington, D.C.  To the extent that the Tea Party contributes to common-sense conservatism, they should be applauded.  However, when the Tea Party Movement exhibits what Charen calls an “obtuseness” — either in selecting candidates for the Senate (i.e., Angle and O’Donnell) or in opposing the most conservative debt ceiling legislation THAT CAN PASS AND BE SIGNED INTO LAW — then the Tea Party should be called out and opposed by common-sense conservatives.

 As you might have guessed, I am definitely not part of the Tea Party Movement.  I consider myself a common-sense conservative — theologically, politically, economically, and socially.  I do think that the Tea Party — by and large — has been good for America.  But, they are not perfect.  They make mistakes.  Some within their ranks — elected and non-elected — would rather not compromise, but instead stand firmly on their principles, even if they are standing on a sinking ship. 

Compromise is not always a bad word.  I can think of a few words that are bad — default, debt, taxes, and “two-term President Obama.”  The Tea Partiers can oppose the Boehner plan this week.  But, they shouldn’t be surprised when their intransigence in 2011 leads to all those bad words becoming a reality in 2012 and beyond!


About Howell Scott

I have been a Southern Baptist pastor for the last fourteen years. Before entering the ministry, I was a practicing attorney in my homestate of Florida. I have been married to my wife, Brenda, for 18 years and we have three sons, Stephen, Jacob, and Andrew.
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11 Responses to The Tea Party, Debt & Insufferable Intransigence

  1. Christiane says:

    I have heard that there are really two ‘tea parties’. One is a grass-roots movement, primarily libertarian in nature. But the OTHER one is a highly-organized ‘machine’ with ‘cell leaders’ trained and richly funded by right-wing think-tank ideologues in each of the states, and that THIS ‘tea party’ is the one in control of the Republican Party at this time.

    Has anyone else heard about this ? Is it a ‘false rumor’ ? If it’s true, who is backing the super-organized tea-party cells financially, and what is their agenda, and what is it that they hope to gain through their efforts politically ?

  2. Shane Morgan says:

    Conservative AND reasonable is exactly right! What good would it possibly do to merely raise the debt ceiling without radically reducing government spending? All that would do is set our country up for an even greater crisis in the future, make Obama look a little better at the poles for a few extremely short-sighted Americans, and mollify the selfish fears of the socialist faction in this country who thrive on unjustifiable entitlements. Boehner’s plan may not be perfect but it’s the most REASONABLE if not the ONLY attempt to strike a balance between spending cuts and revenue generation. The Dem’s along with president Obama and the Tea-Partiers are both shooting themselves in the foot by continuing to play hard-line politics; and both seemwilling to let the entire

    • Howell Scott says:


      Hope you and Kathy and the family are doing well. Good to hear from you. I think that Boehner’s plan, even as he has revised it in the last few days, is the most reasonable one that can pass BOTH houses of Congress. Makes you wonder what could have been if Republicans could have picked up some Senate seats in 2010, especially in places like Delaware, which were almost a lock until Tea Party favorite Christine O’Donnell won the nomination. But, I digress. When you have the Democrats controlling the White House and Senate and the Republicans controlling the House, certain House members need to realize that this makes for difficult legislation. To the extent that the Tea Party has helped the nation focus on our financial ills, that’s great. But, don’t expect the country — and even non-Tea Party conservatives — to embrace 100% of the Tea Party agenda. Not gonna happen. Let’s see how many feet have holes in them by the end of the weekend. Take care and God bless,


      • Shane says:

        We are doing well my brother. I hope you guys are doing well also. And yes, I do dream of what could have been if the Senate had some Republican seats. But that is a dream not realized. By now Boehner’s bill has passed the House, but he had to add the guarantee of a balanced budged ammendment, another dream that will almost certainly go unrealized, at least as long as the Dem’s control the White House and Senate. And if it’s such an unachievable piece of legislation, why would either party want to stall progress on such an important issue in order to wait for it’s inclusion in the bill? I sympathize with the Tea-Partiers who want this, but it seems to me like this isn’t the best time to fight for it. What are your thoughts?

  3. K Gray says:

    Depend on your definition of intransigent. and inane. Recognizing that the underlying DEBT, and no plan to curb it, is a ‘threat’ (and the debt ceiling a stop-gap) is basically what Hilary Clinton said months ago. Credit ratings agencies warn that if we raise the debt ceiling without a credible plan to reduce debt, we would risk credit downgrade; more importantly, we continue headlong toward insolvent government systems. We have to reduce debt, and before Tea Partiers, no one did it.

    Before Tea Partiers, Congress failed to address the debt ceiling OR debt. Last December, in the financial compromise that increased the deficit by a trillion dollars, Sen. Reid decided to push off raising the debt ceiling until Republicans controlled the House, explaining “‘Let the Republicans have some buy-in on the debt. They’re going to have a majority in the House I don’t think it should be when we have a heavily Democratic Senate, heavily Democratic House and a Democratic president.’” So here we are.

    Since “inane” Tea Party members were elected in 2010, the House has passed a BUDGET, has passed a plan to address the debt (Cut Cap and Balance), and is working on passing a second plan (so-called Boehner plan, which could pass today). When Pres.Obama and 114 Democrats asked for a “clean” vote to raise the debt ceiling (with no cuts or debt addressed) this spring, the House did that. But it failed, even 97 Democrats voted against it and 7 voted “present.”.

    Meanwhile in the “reasonable” Senate (few Tea Partiers, more compromisers), the Senate has rejected the House-passed budget, rejected the President’s budget 97-0, rejected Cut Cap and Balance (Reid won’t allow a vote on it); already said they will reject the Boehner plan even if it passes the House, didn’t develop an alternative plan until last week (the Reid plan), and hasn’t brought the Reid plan to the floor. Waiting until 3 days before the debt limit expires, rejecting all House-passed or President-promulgated proposals. Intransigent?

    • Howell Scott says:


      Just got back from playing 9 holes of golf on a beautiful New Mexico morning! Sorry for the delay in responding. As to the Democrats and President Obama’s intransigence, you’re preaching to the choir! That is a given. However, as I shared with Shane, and as Charles Krauthammer pointed out, when you only control 1/2 of one branch of government, you are not going to be able to steamroll through your agenda, no matter how good it might be for the country. That’s the nature of politics. When you say that you will only vote for something once Congress has adopted a Balanced Budget Amendment and sent it to the states AND the states have ratified it, that, IMO, is not reasonable. Bring up a Balanced Budget Amendment and vote on it separately. If it doensn’t have enough votes to pass, then win more House and Senate seats and the Presidency in 2012. But don’t run candidates that have no chance of winning in a general election. I’m for the Buckley rule — support the most conservative candidate that has a chance of winnig. Same with legislation. It may not be perfect, but I would rather have 80% of what I wanted than 0%. Hope you are doing well. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. God bless,


  4. K Gray says:

    Depends, not depend.

  5. K Gray says:

    I am grateful to fiscal conservatives for recognizing the looming debt crisis and trying to include SOME mechanism to control spending. As you note, the Balanced Budget Amendment (which isn’t a precondition) may not be it, and may not be in the final deal.

    I wish the legislation would restore open democracy, too. It should 1) forbid Congress from “deeming” budget resolutions passed (Reid’s plan would “deem” 2012 and 2013 passed so no one has to vote on them); 2) require budget resolutions to pass through committee hearings and Joint Committee ; and 3) have a 72 hour period posted in the internet before passage. There should be reality-checks too; the CBO now comments that assumptions in funding legislation (like 5% growth in the economy) are “unlikely.”

    That’s the next Tea Party idea. :).

  6. Lydia says:

    There is a time and place for everything and that is part of the art of politics. One does not stand on perfect principle and ideology when one is standing on a sinking ship with few rowboats.

    I love what I call the back benchers because they help reframe the debate that really should be reframed! We need some liberatarians sprinkled in with the Marxists, liberals and country club republicans. And I like Rand Paul because he is an idealogue and reframes the debate. When it gets to the point, we don’t even mention such things as the policies of the FRB or a balanced budget amendment, we have lost our way. These guys won’t let it die and for that I thank them. These are the issues we should be discussing during elections instead of being wowed by charisma and a nebulous ‘hope and change’.

    But this is not the time for such things. We do not have the votes. We need the back benchers to keep yelling but when it comes time to vote, they should do the right thing and let everyone know they live another day to repair and navigate a badly damaged ship.

    I will probably get clobbered for saying this but I think a big part of our economic malaise is the health care bill. My contacts are telling me that companies and even small busienss are in a holding pattern to see what the real fall out is going to be. It makes it harder for them to plan for the future because they do not know how this is going to affect them. It’s the big question mark factor hanging over everything. And Obama thought that keeping it from being enacted until after the election was a good idea.

    • Howell Scott says:


      I don’t know about anybody else, but I won’t clobber you for linking the current economic malaise with uncertainty over Obamacare. There is still many questions that remain unanswered as to how this will affect businesses and individuals. Your observation about the back benchers and their positive contribution to the debate, but need now to live to fight another day by stopping their yelling and voting is spot on. To the extent that Rand Paul and the other Tea Partiers have helped navigate the ship of state back to sound fiscal waters, they should be commended. But, when you only have a majority in the House and do not control the Senate or White House, you need to understand that you can’t always get what you want. Thanks for stopping by and have a great weekend. God bless,


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