GOP Leaders, Tea Party Activists Pledge to Fight On

Posted March 20, 2010 at 3:21pm

House Republicans may be on the verge of losing their long fight against the Democratic health care overhaul, but GOP leaders were all smiles on Saturday as protesters from the anti-reform tea party movement swarmed the Capitol complex.

At an afternoon meeting of the House Republican Conference, Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) encouraged Members to reach out to a list of Democrats who still have not yet decided whether they will vote for the health care reform bill.

“We have to make sure there are 38 ‘no’ votes,” Cantor told Republicans who sat eating barbecue inside the Cannon House Office Building’s conference room. “Let’s go get them.”

Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) congratulated his colleagues on their efforts over the past few weeks but reminded them the fight was not over.

“We’re now about 24 hours from Armageddon, 24 hours from Members casting a vote on one of the biggest bills they’ll ever vote for in their careers,” Boehner said. “We are right there.”

But the Republican rallying cries inside the meeting were nothing compared to the crowd of tea party movement protesters that gathered outside of the conference room.

House Republican leaders received a rock star’s welcome when they emerged from their meeting, as about 100 tea party activists cheered the GOP effort to block the health care reform bill.

While the GOP lawmakers’ message hadn’t changed, the audience — usually a small group of note-taking reporters and cameramen — certainly had.

“There’s Pence!” yelled one woman as Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.) approached the stakeout microphones.

“There’s Cantor!” another woman said, as the Republican Whip took his turn to speak to the cameras.

As Boehner exited the Cannon Building after the press conference, protesters lined the street clapping and cheering as the Minority Leader worked the crowd, his black security SUV rolling slowly beside him on the street.

Boehner was not the only Republican to receive a warm welcome from those gathered on the Capitol grounds to protest the health care reform bill.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) was greeted similarly with cheers as she addressed a large crowd of protesters, who had begun to fill the West Front of the Capitol on Saturday morning.

“We are just getting started!” she said. “Hey, Speaker Pelosi! I think you are in trouble,” she added.