During the health care debate, Tea Party groups mobilized thousands of members to rally against the bill right on lawmakers’ doorsteps in Washington, DC. Now the movement is again at a crossroads as Republicans struggle over how far they’re willing to push Democrats on spending cuts before raising the debt ceiling.
You wouldn’t know it, however, from their rally on Wednesday.
Despite featuring Tea Party icons Sens. Jim DeMint (R-SC), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Rand Paul (R-KY), among others, a gathering outside the Senate organized by the Tea Party Express to urge Republicans to stand firm against a compromise bill drew only a handful of attendees.
Reporters, many of whom came to interview presidential candidate Herman Cain, appeared to easily outnumber protesters. And despite being the most prominent attendee, Cain ended up not addressing the crowd and instead watching from the sidelines.
The dismal showing comes as Tea Party groups and other conservative organizations are waging an aggressive campaign against a plan by Republican leaders to raise the debt ceiling with a two-tiered set of cuts and no promise of a balanced budget amendment.
While the proposal by Speaker Boehner looked to be in serious jeopardy on Tuesday, especially after the CBO found it reduced the deficit less than its backers hoped, the bill appears to be gaining some momentum Wednesday as rank and file members push back against the hardline insurgents.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.