The Tea Party Era Has Begun

So they passed the tax cut compromise. And the fundamental unfairness of it sticks in the craw: the nation is under a great deal of economic stress, yet the Republicans just stuck a gun to the heads of people in distress and said “give us our tax cuts or the country gets it.” It’s unjust and infuriating. And ultimately depressing because it’s clear that Democrats were either complicit in the goal or too strategically clueless to address it before the clock had almost run out.

The GOP immediately put out press release saying it stopped Obama-Pelosi-Reid tax hike by passing the tax cut package. Huzzah.

And the games really began:

The new, more Republican Congress won’t arrive in town until next month, but the Tea Party Era unofficially began on the Hill Thursday night.

Republican leaders in Congress, blindsided by grassroots fury over the tax cut deal they made with President Obama, are now scrambling to show their allegiance to the anti-federal, anti-debt movement.

The GOP brass, led by Senate party leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), did so tonight by eagerly backing the successful efforts of Tea Party favorites to block debate on a $1.1 trillion “omnibus” spending bill that would fund the entire federal government until next October — but which contained billions of dollars in “earmarks” Republicans, including McConnell, once stoutly defended.

The omnibus bill also contained the spending priorities of the Obama administration and the soon-to-be-ended Democratic-controlled Congress.

GOP senators, let by Tea Party acolyte Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), had demanded the entire 2,000 page bill be read by the Senate clerk — a formality that is almost always dispensed with. Most of DeMint’s colleagues privately dismiss him as a grandstanding freelancer who backed extremists who lost seats the GOP should have won. But McConnell and the rest of his team not only didn’t want to challenge DeMint on the spending bill, they were glad to join him in showing their newfound distaste for earmarks.

Now, all that’s just a little bit silly since the GOP is doing handsprings that they were able to cut taxes for the rich and raise the deficit without these rubes catching on to what it really means. But if Howard Fineman’s report above is any indication, the political establishment is very excited about the Tea Party takeover.

Here’s Stephanie Mencimer at MoJo:

Tea party activists have had much be angry about in recent weeks, after discovering their success in the midterm elections wasn’t yielding them any immediate power on Capitol Hill. They’ve lost every fight they’ve weighed in on during the lame duck session of Congress, including GOP elections for key committee posts, the passage of a food safety bill, and most likely, the Obama tax cut plan. Undaunted, they are now getting fired up for one last battle before hunkering down to wrap Christmas presents, and this one is a whopper. Tea partiers want to end the year with a government shutdown.

They didn’t get it last night. But they still might. And their willingness to hold the gun to the country’s head has just been proven.

But I’m sure we’ll see some of that eye-rolling from Gloria Borger and Andrea Mitchell about the importance of compromise as this goes down, right?

In the next day or two, Reid and McConnell will agree on a date through which to extend federal spending. Whatever date they decide will be the deadline for resolving the next spending fight, which will occur in a dramatically different, and more conservative political environment. Republicans will demand spending cuts. And if they’re successful, the stimulative impact of the just-passed tax package will be clawed back.

Somehow,I don’t think they’ll be lecturing the Tea Party about how silly they are for hewing to their “principles.” They are, after all, Real Americans.

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