In an early test of their clout with Senate Republicans, tea party activists Wednesday joined the fray over efforts to impose a voluntary earmark ban on the Senate GOP Conference, demanding that the moratorium backed by Sen. Jim DeMint (S.C.) be adopted.
Although the tea party has played a significant role in internal policy decisions of the House Republican Conference, it has thus far had virtually no influence in the Senate.
With mixed results on the Senate level in last week’s elections, the main question as Congress enters the lame-duck session is the possibility of the tea party movement forcing the Senate GOP into taking specific positions.
In an e-mail to supporters, the Tea Party Patriots — one of the nation’s largest coalitions of tea party activists — called on activists to contact Republican leaders in the Senate as well as opponents of the ban.
In the e-mail, the group argues that “the senators that are going to vote against Sen. DeMint’s amendment need to be reminded about the message that was sent to them just last week. Americans are tired of these games and the way that earmarks breed corruption and favor-trading.”
According to the e-mail, the tea party is specifically targeting Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), Minority Whip Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Policy Committee Chairman John Thune (S.D.) and Conference Vice Chairman John Barrasso (Wyo.), as well as Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and James Inhofe (Okla.), both of whom have been critical of the ban.
“We need to call these Senators that are thinking of voting no on Sen. DeMint’s amendment. … Go ahead and melt their phone lines and let them know that the Tea Party Patriots didn’t disappear just because the elections are over,” the e-mail says.
The organization urged members to argue that despite the relatively small cost of earmarks compared with entitlement spending, banning earmarks now “shows that they were serious and honest in their campaign promises. As [Florida Sen.-elect] Marco Rubio said, the Republicans were given a second chance and this is their first test. We want an end to earmarks AND spending cuts AND entitlement reform.”
“Be polite, but firm. Some of these senators have been with us on other issues, but on this issue we need to remind them that they work for the people, and the people spoke last Tuesday: No more wasteful spending,” the group adds.