It’s time to stop circling the wagons and shooting IN
Christine Morabito – April, 2012
The Tea Party’s relationship with U.S. Senator Scott Brown has been dysfunctional at best.
In February, leaders from 7 Massachusetts Tea Parties sat down with Brown’s staff to establish an open dialogue and express concerns about his voting record. Despite siding with Conservatives about 70 percent of the time, Brown’s more controversial positions have left Tea Party members scratching their heads.
Perhaps the most contentious issue has been the senator’s support for the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The law claims to protect consumers, end bailouts and prevent another financial crisis. However, many conservatives argue that this 1,408-page law restricts available credit, slows job creation as a result of massive government intrusion and creates a protected class of “too big to fail” banks.
Brown’s Legislative Director, Nat Hoopes explained that Dodd-Frank, which had bipartisan support, consolidated regulatory agencies, creating a Consumer Protection Bureau. Brown was credited with strengthening the bill, calling for tightened regulations on those credit rating agencies he believes did a terrible job leading up to the financial crisis. According to Hoopes, Brown was disappointed that the failures of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were not addressed, but felt it was necessary to strengthen industry rules to stave off another financial disaster.
As someone hawkish on national defense, Brown has been criticized for backing the New START Treaty with Russia, a country with questionable alliances. Hoops says Brown listened to months of testimony on the issue and believed it was in the country’s best interest to discontinue stockpiling nuclear weapons and risk them falling into the hands of terrorists.
Many conservatives believe New START makes us more vulnerable to threats posed by Iran and North Korea. Even Mitt Romney has called the treaty the president’s “worst foreign policy mistake yet.” Senator Brown and his colleagues were assured that New START merely calls for a reduction in existing nuclear weapons and will not restrict U.S. missile defense capabilities.
However, Obama’s top defense advisor, Phillip Coyle, is a man openly hostile towards missile defense. Hence, the skepticism.
Turns out, there is cause for concern. President Obama was overheard at the recent Nuclear Security Summit, whispering to Russia’s president, that he would have “more flexibility” after the 2012 elections. This is quite alarming given the fact that Russia would rejoice in us abandoning our missile defense programs. Scott Brown is adamant that he will strongly oppose any such arrangement.
For advocates of limited government, it is difficult to understand Brown’s need to “reach across the aisle” to the extent that he does. He states he does not want to be “another loud and angry voice” in Washington. We can sympathize with not wanting to be an obstructionist – but only to a certain extent. When our president shows no regard for the Constitution and even less regard for the will of the people, a healthy dose of obstructionism is quite appropriate.
Hoopes said finding that balance has not been easy. Senator Brown walks a fine line between obstructionism and moving the country forward. His ability to work across the aisle has brought many rewards. His wildly popular Stock Act, designed to eliminate insider trading among members of Congress, passed 417-2 in the House and 96-3 in the Senate. The Hire a Hero legislation, which creates incentives to businesses who hire veterans, and the repeal of the 3 percent withholding requirement on government contractors are now law. Brown’s Crowd funding legislation, which allows entrepreneurs to more easily share stocks via the internet, was recently passed as part of the Jobs Act. For a freshman senator to have had 4 significant bills passed in his first 2 years is unprecedented.
Nevertheless, Brown faces a tough reelection. His presumed challenger, Harvard Law Professor, Elizabeth Warren is the Tea Party’s worst nightmare. A self-described “rock thrower,” Warren has been a divisive and unapologetic advocate for wealth redistribution. The professor also took credit for creating “much of the intellectual foundation” for the Occupy movement – although I challenge you to find anything remotely intellectual about them.
Brown has many advantages in this race. His staff describes him as a tireless campaigner who actually enjoys meeting his constituents. The elitist, Warren, with her inflammatory rhetoric provides a stark contrast. Massachusetts liberals are worked up into a lather about losing what they consider Ted Kennedy’s seat, and are vowing to be avenged.
Another hard pill to swallow has been Brown’s support for Obama’s recess appointment of Richard Cordray to direct the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Brown’s team explained that some Senate Republicans vowed to block any nominee and would not allow the Senate to recess. Whether or not the Senate was technically in recess, is the million dollar question. Brown had met with Cordray and believed he was the best candidate for a necessary position. Ironically, Elizabeth Warren had been deemed unacceptable for this very appointment.
Although Brown and the Tea Party often disagree, his Deputy Chief of Staff, Gregory Casey assured us that the senator studies every bill and does not make decisions lightly. In the plus column, the senator has maintained his no-tax pledge, voted twice to repeal Obamacare, and supported Cut Cap and Balance. His sponsorship of the Fish Act helped to reign in the oppressive powers of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to put fishermen out of business by making it impossible for them to keep up with the rules.
The dilemma for the Tea Party is making peace with the fact that Scott Brown is not as ideologically conservative as we are. The alternative is living in a state “represented” by both John Kerry and Elizabeth Warren. Perish the thought.