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Tea Party, Conservatives Conflicted Over Budget Deal

Though the eleventh-hour budget deal brokered after days of intensive negotiations was widely seen as a win for Republicans, Tea Party activists and the lawmakers aligned with them are divided over whether to support it. 

Conservatives for months have been pushing for $61 billion in cuts. What they got was $38.5 billion, as well as a handful of policy riders and other sweeteners. While Democrats met Republicans more than halfway on that deal, some prominent conservative groups and lawmakers say they're still not happy. 

"I think John Boehner got a good deal, but it's probably not good enough for me to support it," Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., said in an interview Sunday. 

Pence, who increasingly has aligned himself with the Tea Party movement, staked out a nuanced position. He credited the House speaker for taking on the White House and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in head-to-head negotiations, but, while he supported a bridge bill to keep the government running through Thursday, claimed he would vote against the final package. 

Others have been less equivocal. 

"In the seven days preceding last night's deal, our nation's debt increased by $54.1 billion. And now our 'leaders' are touting as 'historic' the $38.5 billion in spending cuts for the rest of fiscal year 2011," Tea Party Patriots co-founder Mark Meckler said in a written statement Saturday. "Leadership requires bold, visionary action in times of crisis. Are we getting bold, visionary leadership in Washington, D.C.? We think the numbers speak for themselves." 

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, voted against the bridge bill and said he could not back the final budget deal either. 

"I can't support this," Chaffetz told Fox Business Network shortly after the deal was announced. "We have a multitrillion-dollar problem here. And I feel disappointed we came up a little bit short." 

Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., also voted against the bridge bill, saying members of Congress have "been asked to settle for $39 billion in cuts, even as we continue to fund Planned Parenthood and the implementation of ObamaCare." 

The roll call on the stopgap bill, though, suggests conservative discontent will not unravel the hard-fought deal. That bill passed overwhelmingly on a 348-70 vote early Saturday morning, with far more Democrats opposing the bill than Republicans. 

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., who spoke alongside Pence on ABC's "This Week," predicted the budget bill funding the government for the rest of the year would pass when it comes to the floor later in the week. 

Van Hollen said he was still reserving judgment on the bill until more details are released. 

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., also said on CBS' "Face the Nation" that specific details won't be published until Monday and that lawmakers have agreed to stay mum until then. Offering brushstrokes of the deal, Schumer played up the good news for Democrats, noting that the defense budget will share in the cuts, while areas like the Head Start program for low-income children will be spared. 

Lawmakers and their aides are working overtime to prep the bill for a floor vote in the next few days. One Republican aide said it would be a "Herculean task" to pump out the language. 

While the White House and congressional Democrats found solace in the fact that some favored programs were spared from what they once described as "draconian" cuts, several concessions in the final compromise were clearly in Republicans' favor. 

They won riders reviving the District of Columbia's school voucher program while banning the city from directing taxpayer money toward abortions. While votes on banning funds for Planned Parenthood and for the Democrats' health care overhaul were barred from the main bill, Republicans were promised separate votes in the Senate on those issues. 

For the most part, conservatives were counting the compromise as a win. 

"We all would like to have deeper cuts," said Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill. "That said, I think Speaker Boehner fought hard. I think he went to battle. ... I think this was a very good deal." 

FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe said the Tea Party has "redefined" the debate in Washington. 

"In that context, the deal was a good victory," he told Fox News. "Do we have a lot more to do? Is it just a small percentage of the solution we need to find? Absolutely. But the fact that now Harry Reid, President Obama, Republicans from the leadership are all debating the issue in our terms, this is a good step in the right direction."