Washington Tells Tea Party: “Don’t go Away!”

by Christine Morabito (July, 2011)

Senator Marco Rubio’s office has a message for the Tea Party: “Stay active and stay engaged.”

This was just one of the many statements of support received by a delegation of Massachusetts Tea Party members during a recent visit to Washington. Our goal was to meet with influential legislators and to deliver petitions, signed by nearly 600 citizens, urging lawmakers to stand firm on reducing the deficit, cutting spending and repealing Obamacare.

We contacted the office of Marco Rubio because of his impressive record of fiscal restraint, the topic du jour in Washington. The senator’s legislative assistant and Director of Outreach, J. R. Sanchez, assured us that Rubio is against raising the debt ceiling without serious cuts to spending. Conservatives understand that this is the only way to have a lasting effect on the massive debt that threatens our nation’s sovereignty. Sanchez, using the example of entitlement reform, said we have 71 different welfare programs costing us two times more than we spend on national defense. His employer, Senator Rubio, also cosigned a bill to repeal the budget busting fiasco called Obamacare.

Our next meeting was with Senator Jim DeMint’s legislative correspondent, James Holland who was very supportive and knowledgeable about the Tea Party. He works for one of the good guys. DeMint is relentless when it comes to standing up to the big spenders in Congress and has been called the “taxpayers’ greatest ally.”

Congressman Darrell Issa’s assistant, Michael O’Neill listened intently as we relayed our appreciation for Issa’s efforts and thanked him for being a watchdog for our tax dollars. Named “Entrepreneur of the Year” in 1994, Issa’s extensive private sector experience provides an excellent example of how the free market can solve many of our nation’s problems, if only it were allowed to operate free of excessive government interference. It is no surprise that Issa has earned a 100 percent rating from the American Conservative Union.

We were overwhelmed by the warm reception we received from every office we visited — except Senator Harry Reid’s — we couldn’t help ourselves. We were credited with changing the conversation in Washington and across the country to focus on fiscal responsibility and individual freedoms. We were also thanked for helping to get Scott Brown elected. While that victory remains a source of pride, our delicate relationship with the senator is a subject for another column.

We were looking forward to meeting directly with New York Congressman Peter King. A few days before the trip I received an email from his staff saying he could not keep the appointment because the House Homeland Security Committee, which he chairs, was meeting with Leon Panetta. It was humbling, but we accepted the fact that maybe we’re not quite as important as the country’s new Secretary of Defense.

King’s legislative assistant, Adam Paulson was kind enough to give us an audience. We shared our concerns about government spending and Obamacare. Paulson gave a summary of Congressman King’s ongoing hearings that expose the threat our country faces at the hands of Muslim extremists. We applauded King’s efforts to assure our safety despite criticism from those who seem to value political correctness over national security.

After a quick lunch we were off to meet with two members of House Speaker John Boehner’s staff. We discussed the perils of Obamacare with policy expert Emily Porter and the need to do everything in our power to keep the law from being fully implemented in 2014. The things we know about it are bad enough — thank you Nancy Pelosi. As with any government program, you must consider the unintended consequences of the 2,400 page monstrosity.

Boehner’s staffer, Cindy Herrle discussed the ongoing battle over raising the debt ceiling. While Boehner has been criticized for compromising on certain issues, things are not always as they appear. He wants people to know that there is a strategy behind his decisions. Herrle compared it to a chess game. As chess players know, sometimes you have to sacrifice the Queen. Boehner’s staff said he has indeed been making cuts, and while some are small, the programs being cut are “unprecedented.”

On behalf of Congressman Pete Sessions, we sat down with Mike Bober, Coalitions Director of the National Republican Congressional Committee. He confessed that he and his fellow Republicans in Congress tend to write off Massachusetts due to its ultra-liberal reputation. We managed to impress him with our group’s dedication and he promised to give our state a second look when it comes to recruiting and promoting candidates.

While delivering petitions in the Cannon House Office Building, one of our members recognized conservative superstar, Congressman Mike Pence speaking with folks outside his office. We found him to be incredibly gracious and generous with his time. He thanked us for making the journey and wished us luck back home.

We left Washington with a renewed enthusiasm for the challenging job we face here in Massachusetts (I personally came away with a few blisters and a new appreciation for comfortable shoes). Kelly Curran, a Greater Lowell Tea Party member shared her impressions after the trip: “I would encourage the Tea Parties to stay active. Although we may not see results day to day, little by little we are all making a difference.”

J.R. Sanchez’s words will forever haunt us: “My biggest fear is that the Tea Party will go away.” We assured him that the Tea Party is alive and well in and living in Massachusetts!