As House Speaker John Boehner frantically pieces together a plan to rescue the nation from financial disaster next week, members of the Tea Party movement who helped propel Republicans back into power last fall are calling for his head.
“Boehner must go,” Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips said in his blog on Wednesday, calling the speaker a “big government Republican” who “worships at the altar of massive spending.”
“We need a speaker who is a leader. We need someone with courage and vision. Boehner has none of those qualities. He is not a leader,” Phillips wrote. “John Boehner simply wishes to be the manager in chief of the welfare state. His vision of the GOP and the speakership involves golfing, drinking and not rocking the boat.”
But Tea Party-backed lawmakers on Wednesday stood up for Boehner, even though they prefer another plan – “cut cap and balance,” which would allows the nation to borrow $2.4 trillion more money in exchange for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. That measure passed in the House last week but died in the Senate.
“My Republican leadership in the House is doing a great job,” freshman Rep. Joe Walsh said at a Tea Party rally Wednesday. “Imagine having to negotiate with Barack Obama. Imagine having to negotiate with Harry Reid. Give John Boehner, give Eric Cantor all the credit in the world.”
Tea Party activists, who clamor for lower taxes and smaller government, are up in arms over a Boehner plan that would slash $1 trillion in federal spending and increase the nation’s $14.3 trillion legal limit on borrowing money.
Boehner revised his plan after congressional budget analysts said it would save $850 billion over the next decade instead of the $1.2 trillion advertised. The latest figures put the savings above $900 billion, more than the bill's proposed debt limit increase. The House is expected to vote on the revised plan Thursday.
The Treasury Department says it will run out of money to pay all of its bills next week, meaning the government could face a debt default for the first time.
While both sides have pointed fingers at each other for the impasse that has led to the debt crisis, Tea Party activists, who have been accused of preventing a deal with their no-compromise position, are now turning on Boehner.
Phillips says Boehner has been a “total disaster” as speaker, who “much like the French Army… surrenders early and often.”
Phillips accused Boehner of “surrendering again” by pushing his new plan instead of the “cut, cap and balance” legislation.
The Tea Party Patriots, a faction of the movement that includes 3,500 affiliated groups around the country, conducted an informal poll online Tuesday in which 81.5 percent of members said they were “not satisfied with the leadership of the House” and 74.1 percent said they either want Boehner replaced, were undecided or were leaning toward a new speaker.
“The reason we asked is that people are bringing it up to us – maybe we should see about a different speaker,” Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder and national coordinator for the group, told the Christian Science Monitor.
But Rep. Michele Bachmann, a 2012 presidential contender who founded the House Tea Party Caucus, said she is not interested in seeing Boehner replaced as speaker.
Bachmann campaign spokeswoman Alice Stewart said Bachmann “does want to replace Obama as president.”
Americans for Limited Government President Bill Wilson urged Republicans to keep their personal criticisms of Boehner to themselves.
“Political rhetoric should not be directed at Speaker Boehner, but instead should focus on the deeply flawed legislation that he has offered as a solution to the credit crisis facing our nation,” Wilson said, urging House Republicans to vote against the plan.
“Conservatives need to stand together in favor of keeping the spending cut promises of the 2010 election, but should maintain our focus on the legislation and not personalities,” he said.