Tea party activists trumpeted their all-or-nothing stance on spending cuts Thursday on Capitol Hill, even as House Republicans negotiated a compromise with Senate Democrats to avoid a government shutdown.
“Cut it or shut it” was the mantra of activists at the rally hosted by the Tea Party Patriots, a national umbrella group, with some participants carrying signs demanding $100 billion in cuts or more in a spending bill for the remainder of the fiscal year. The current continuing resolution runs out April 8, but the impending deadline did not trouble the ralliers, who numbered fewer than 200.
“It doesn’t scare me at all. As a matter of fact, I welcome it,” Ed Salseda of Virginia said of a possible shutdown. The 69-year-old retired Army employee joined the tea party movement two years ago.
Activist Roger Meredith of Virginia carried a sign that said, “$60 Billion Cut is Using a Scalpel on a Watermelon.” The 70-year-old retired economist said it will take eight times as much to make a dent in the nation’s growing debt.
“Even $100 billion to me is nothing,” he said, adding that although the shutdown might affect average Americans in the short run, “it’s going to affect us more if we don’t solve the problem.”
Lawmakers who spoke at the event were less cavalier about risking a shutdown, while blaming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and other Democrats for the budget crisis.
“We are not here to talk about shutting down the government,” Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) said. “But if you want to talk about shutting down the government, go right over there and talk to Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid, go down to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. and talk to the president. We are here to talk about the incredible fiscal irresponsibility. Why would I want to sit down and compromise with people who enhanced this problem?”
“They just don’t get it,” the Indiana Republican added. “They don’t understand the party’s over for liberals in Washington, D.C. The American people are demanding that we change the fiscal direction of our national government.
“Nobody wants a government shutdown, but if we don’t take a stand, we’re going to shut down the future for our children and our grandchildren,” Pence said, calling the $61 billion in cuts the House passed in February a “first wind for taxpayers that set the stage for larger victories on battling against the debt ceiling increase without fundamental reform.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.