It’s been blasted by the likes of Sen. Harry Reid, the majority leader of the U.S. Senate, to Sen. John McCain, the Republican nominee for president in 2008. They’ve been called “hobbits,” “foolish,” “deceiving, even bizarre” and un-American. Call them all of the names that you want but the reality is clear—the Tea Party is firmly in control of the debt ceiling debate. Using their numbers and influence in Congress to stop any kind of compromise on tax increases and challenging the very notion that the country will collapse without an increase in the debt limit by next week, the Tea Party has dictated the rules of this game. It could be argued that the Tea Party’s influence has reached all the way up to the commander in chief as President Barack Obama, even while insisting that new revenues must be generated in a balanced approach to reduce the deficit, was ready to inflict deep spending cuts on liberal sacred cow entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security. As the country creeps closer to the August 2nd deadline to raise the debt ceiling without going into default and Tea Party members of Congress dig in their heels to resist any kind of compromise on their belief of a smaller government, the cries for compromise and negotiation are increasing. Tea Party members seem immune to the demands, unconcerned with the political implications of a possible government shutdown and default, determined to follow through on what they see as a mandate from the 2010 election to stop runaway spending and radically reduce the role of government in modern America.
Applaud or curse the Tea Party, their influence and power is undeniable. Being blasted by Senate leadership on both sides of the aisle is just further proof that the Tea Party is now driving the national debate over the debt ceiling, deficit reduction and the size of the government. Will the Tea Party ultimately be a positive or negative force?
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