S.C.'s Tea Party Pleased With Reps. Budget Vote

fromWFAE

Members of Congress are back in their districts for the next two weeks. Many are beginning to hear a lot from their constituents about the continuing budget battles. In South Carolina, all six of that state's House members voted against the compromise funding bill.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And after wrangling for weeks over the federal budget, members of Congress are home in their districts to answer for their votes. Today, we check in on South Carolina. All six of that state's House members voted no on the spending bill that covers the last half of this fiscal year.

Julie Rose of member station WFAE tells us what people there think about that.

JULIE ROSE: South Carolina is loaded with Tea Party darlings. Four of the state's six congressmen are freshmen who swept into office on the conservative wave of the last midterms, along with numerous state lawmakers and Governor Nikki Haley.

(Soundbite of applause)

Governor NIKKI HALEY (Republican, South Carolina): Well, I think it's a great day for a Tea Party.

(Soundbite of cheering)

ROSE: Haley revved up several hundred Tea Party supporters at a Tax Day rally at the state capitol yesterday. This crowd is thrilled with the way their five Republican congressmen rebelled against the party leadership and rejected the compromise worked out with President Obama.

Ms. PHILOMENA GUERIN: We didn't vote them in for compromise.

Mr. JERRY GUERIN: We want more than $40 billion cut from the budget. We want 100, 200, more. We need to cut about a trillion dollars from the budget. And they're not going to settle for anything less.

ROSE: That was Philomena and Jerry Guerin of Aiken. South Carolina has long been a conservative state, important to the Republican Party. Its early primary election is a key proving ground for presidential candidates. Before there was the Tea Party in South Carolina, there was the Christian Coalition. The state's lone Democratic congressman, Jim Clyburn, admits South Carolina does appear to be shifting even further right. But he says...

Representative JAMES CLYBURN (Democrat, South Carolina): When I go home and interact with people, I don't feel that. I think that the vote last November was a much less of a shift in population, than it was a lack of participation.

ROSE: Clyburn says conservatives were just more motivated to vote. He represents a rural and typically more Democratic part of South Carolina. And while he, too, voted against the budget bill, he did it because he says it cut too much.

For a taste of what everyday South Carolinians really think about the performance of their representatives in Congress, have a listen to this.

(Soundbite of vehicles)

ROSE: We're in the parking lot of a strip mall in the city of Rock Hill. There's an eclectic mix of shops; a dollar discount store, a natural foods grocer, and a pharmacy. That's where Micah Smith is headed.

Mr. MICAH SMITH: I think the Tea Partiers are full of bunk. I believe that they're not going to be out there for anybody else but themselves.

ROSE: Smith is an Obama supporter.

Rock Hill was represented for decades in Congress by a moderate Democrat named John Spratt. But last fall, Spratt lost to Tea Party newcomer Mick Mulvaney.

Voter Pat Lewis leans Libertarian and says he isn't terribly impressed with Mulvaney's vote against the budget compromise, only because he thinks it's too early to tell what these Tea Party politicians really stand for.

Mr. PAT LEWIS: Now, if he does prove himself to be, you know, what he says he is, then I'll definitely be voting for him from here on in.

Mr. DONNIE CRAIG: I probably won't vote for him next time.

ROSE: This is lifetime Rock Hill resident Donnie Craig. He's conservative and though he likes what Mulvaney's done so far...

Mr. CRAIG: I don't think we ought to leave these people up there. If we would change every four or six years, you scare the dickens out of these people and they'll start doing something.

ROSE: Frankly, nobody here seems much surprised at how South Carolina's elected officials are voting on budget issues in Washington. Kate Cullen sure isn't.

Ms. KATE CULLEN: I think we're just straight up crazy when it comes to politics. I think we really like to stick it to the rest of the system. And, you know, I think it's more about being stubborn than it is about they coming to an agreement.

ROSE: Whether they agree with the votes of their congressmen or not, many South Carolinians say they're just happy to have the nation focused on something other than their philandering ex-Governor Mark Sanford, and the well-publicized affair he tried to pass off as a harmless hike down the Appalachian Trail.

For NPR News, I'm Julie Rose in Columbia.

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