The Tea Party’s First Victory

It appears that, for the first time since electing a record number of Freshman Republicans to the House, the Tea Party movement has won a major victory.  While some Tea Party legislators like Reps. Mike Pence and Michele Bachmann don’t like the budget deal, it is clear that the vast majority of conservative Republicans will support the compromise.

As a Wall Street Journal editorial points out:

Yes, we know, $39 billion in spending cuts for 2011 is less than the $61 billion passed by the House and shrinks the overall federal budget by only a little more than 1%. The compromise also doesn’t repeal ObamaCare, kill the EPA’s anticarbon rules, defund Planned Parenthood, reform the entitlement state, or part the Red Sea.

On the other hand, the Obama-Pelosi Leviathan wasn’t built in a day, and it won’t be cut down to size in one budget. Especially not in a fiscal year that only has six months left and with Democrats running the Senate and White House. Friday’s deal cuts more spending in any single year than we can remember, $78 billion more than President Obama first proposed. Domestic discretionary spending grew by 6% in 2008, 11% in 2009 and 14% in 2010, but this year will fall by 4%. That’s no small reversal.

The budget does this while holding the line against defense cuts that Democrats wanted and restoring the school voucher program for Washington, D.C. for thousands of poor children. Tom DeLay—the talk radio hero when he ran the House—never passed a budget close to this good.

That’s exactly right.  This is a best budget in a while.  Spending is reduced, not expanded!  This is thanks to the many freshman in Congress who are identified with the Tea Party.  Their 2010 wave election forced Obama and Harry Reid to compromise with the GOP to cut spending.

Instead of destroying the GOP by taking it in an “extreme” direction, the Tea Party freshman are reinvigorating the party. These freshman are proving to be a mature and serious block in the Congress, at a time when the left-wing media is cheering on a GOP civil war.  Because of this maturity, they are willing to wait for the bigger battle ahead.

Now the battle moves to the debt ceiling increase and Paul Ryan’s new 2012 budget later this year, and there are lessons from this fight to keep in mind. One is to focus on spending and budget issues, not extraneous policy fights. Republicans have the advantage when they are talking about the overall level of spending and ways to control it. They lose that edge when the debate veers off into a battle over social issues.

We certainly agree that, amid a $1.5 trillion deficit, taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood is preposterous. Let George Soros or Peter Lewis spend their private fortunes to support the group’s abortion counseling. But Mr. Boehner was wise to drop the provision on Friday rather than let Mr. Obama portray a shutdown as a fight over abortion rights. If Republicans want to win this fight in the coming months, they need to convince voters that Planned Parenthood funding is a low fiscal priority, not make it seem as if they want to use the budget to stage a cultural brawl.

This point is especially crucial in the looming showdown over increasing the debt limit. Mr. Obama will marshal a parade of Wall Street and Federal Reserve worthies predicting Armageddon if the debt limit isn’t raised as early as mid-May. Republicans will play into his hands of they seek to load up any debt limit increase with policies unrelated to spending and debt reduction.

The best advice we’ve heard is from former Senator Phil Gramm, who says Republicans should agree that families and nations should always honor their debts. But in doing so they should also make sure they won’t pile up new debt. For a family, that means cutting up the credit cards. For Congress, it means passing budget reforms that impose hard and enforceable limits on new spending and debt.

The Tea Party won its first victory, but the fiscal war will continue.  In Speaker John Boehner, the Republicans have an able General who is respected and trusted by his subordinates.  With his leadership, I am confident that fiscal sanity will be victorious.

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