Republican leaders may be growing squeamish about a showdown with the White House over the health care law next Congress. But if you think the conservative base is just going to sit back and give them a pass, you’re sorely mistaken.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal earlier this week, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor was more explicit than any Republican leader has been thus far that the GOP will not force a federal government shutdown, if push comes to shove in their fight to defund health care reform.
“No,” Cantor said. “I don’t think the country needs or wants a shutdown.” Broadly speaking, Cantor cautioned, Republicans will have to take a humble approach. Republicans, he said, “have to be careful about how we do it. We don’t want to be seen as a bunch of yahoos.”
That’s completely unacceptable according to one Tea Party leader.
“Maybe I’m just one of those yahoos, but I think it’s crazy to take anything off the table,” said Mark Meckler, cofounder of the Tea Party Patriots. “Unfortunately i think Cantor is repeatedly making this mistake.”
“The closest thing we’re going to get to repeal right now is defunding,” Meckler said, and that won’t happen if Republicans take their biggest bargaining chip off the table. “In battle you don’t go in and tell the other side we’ll only go so far, so if you push us this far we’ll stop.”
For Meckler, and his organization, it’s about more than just the health care law.
“They’re looking at bringing earmarks back because they think they can bring back earmarks that have merit,” Meckler said in disbelief. “I’m so bored of their rhetoric and i have such an overall feeling of disbelief for what anybody currently in Washington says.”
“Maybe there’s some sense among Republicans that they’re going to be victorious and so they can go back to their old ways,” Meckler said. But they’re forgetting one important thing. “Republicans are not well liked,” he added. And if they disappoint, “we’ll be back again and we’ll throw ‘em all out.”
Jamie Radtke, chair of the Virginia Tea Party — and of the Tea Party in Cantor’s Richmond district — was unavailable for comment.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.