Tea Partiers Rally For Deeper Cuts

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With Congress haggling over another continuing resolution to prevent a government shutdown, members of the Tea Party movement gathered on the lawn near the Capitol Building Thursday. They oppose the deal now taking shape and want deeper spending cuts.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

With Congress haggling over another continuing resolution to prevent a government shutdown, members of the Tea Party movement gathered on the lawn near the capitol building this afternoon. They oppose the deal now taking shape and want deeper spending cuts.

As NPR's Don Gonyea reports, the demonstrators were angry and mostly at Republicans.

DON GONYEA: It was not a great day for a political rally - barely 40 degrees, off and on drizzle, Jenny Beth Martin, a co-founder of the national group called the Tea Party Patriots, had a question for the crowd of several hundred.

Ms. JENNY BETH MARTIN (Co-founder, Tea Party Patriots): How many of you, this is the first time you've ever been to Washington, D.C. for one of these things?

GONYEA: A small number of hands go up.

Ms. MARTIN: How many of you have been here more than twice before?

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

Ms. MARTIN: How many of you have been here more than three or four times before?

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

Ms. MARTIN: How many of you are sick of coming into Washington, D.C. in the middle of the week to tell these people what to do?

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

GONYEA: That set the tone for the event. It was clear these activists expect far more from the new Republican-controlled House of Representatives than they have seen so far. But several Tea Party favorites from within the GOP ranks did stop by the rally, including Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. She's the chair of the Congressional Tea Party Caucus.

Representative MICHELE BACHMANN (Republican, Minnesota): There are people here in Washington, D.C. who thought after the November election that you were all going to go home and go back to sleep. Is that true?

CROWD: No.

GONYEA: And Senator Rand Paul, who cited at least some progress.

Senator RAND PAUL (Republican, Kentucky): The debate has changed. Instead of talking about where they're going to spend, we are talking about where we're going to cut.

(Soundbite of cheers)

Sen. PAUL: But it's not enough.

GONYEA: Paul was really cheered when he said it's time for Congress to actually cut spending.

Bachmann and Paul bring some star power to these events, but lesser-known speakers were greeted enthusiastically as well. One was Richmond, Virginia Tea Party leader Phil Rapp, who had a tough warning for his own congressman, Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who voted against a recent amendment that would have added $20 billion in additional cuts.

Mr. PHIL RAPP (Vice President, Richmond Tea Party): Congressman Cantor, along with 91 other House Republicans voted against it. What's it going to take to get the message to these folks?

GONYEA: Most of the speakers today stressed that they don't want a government shutdown, which they say Democrats in the White House would simply blame on the Tea Party movement. But speaker after speaker also rejected compromise. And within the crowd there was no shortage of support for the shutdown option.

Forty-six-year-old David Show of Uniontown, Pennsylvania says it's not his first choice. But he's more than OK with a shutdown if that's what it takes.

Mr. DAVID SHOW: Absolutely. Absolutely. If it's broke, you fix it. I don't keep running a car that's messed up, I'll stop and fix it. That's what we need to do here.

GONYEA: But mostly the Tea Party message at this rally was that the people they helped elect need to pay attention to them. They are impatient and proud of it.

Don Gonyea, NPR News, Washington.

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