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When members of Congress get back from their August recess after getting an earful back home about health care, they can expect a rowdy reception on Capitol Hill. Two conservative activists launched a cross country bus tour on the West coast this weekend. They've dubbed it the Tea Party Express, and they plan to be in Washington just about the time lawmaker's return.
NPR's Jeff Brady spent the weekend following the bus tour through Nevada.
JEFF BRADY: Tea Party Express organizers say they're at the leading edge of a new political movement. Sometimes they refer to Ross Perot's presidential bid in 1992 as inspiration, but it's also a patriotic road show that always begins with the national anthem.
(Soundbite of National Anthem)
Unidentified Woman: What so proudly we hailed
BRADY: A political action committee from California is sponsoring the bus tour. Mark Williams is the talk radio host and an officer with the Our Country Deserves Better PAC. The goal is to bring together different groups concerned about what he calls heavy handed government policies.
Mr. MARK WILLIAMS (Officer, Our Country Deserves Better PAC): Our country deserves better. We figured it's time for somebody to run to the front of the parade and say follow me, and to try to herd all these calves into a - at least a semi coherent message.
BRADY: The Tea Party Express attracted several hundred people to its rally in Elko, Saturday night. President Obama visited this small town of 20,000 people three times during the campaign, still fewer than a third of voters here picked him on election day. At the tea party rally, there were few, if any, fans of Mr. Obama and plenty of critics. Sherry Hussey(ph) held the sign that read no more closed roads. She is upset public land agencies are blocking off roads for environmental reasons.
Ms. SHERRY HUSSEY: The Federal Government wants to close more of our roads and I have three little girls. We camp, and we hunt, and we fish, and we ply on four wheelers, and I have every right to use public roads on public lands.
BRADY: Across the lawn, there's a man wearing T-shirt with President Obama's face on it. It reads Don't Tax Me Bro. There were also people holding signs criticizing government involvement in health care and excessive federal spending. The scene a few hours away in Ely was similar. This is a place where people are comfortably using language most others left behind with the end of the cold war.
Ms. JEANETTE COBB(ph): We don't need a communist nation. And that's what Obama's taking us to. We don't want that.
BRADY: That's Jeanette Cobb of Eureka, Nevada. She and her husband Robert and both retired. He says government control is a big issue for him.
Mr. ROBERT COBB(ph): Every time you look at the news. I think Friday, they're talking about taking over the Internet in an emergency. Well, who declares an emergency? I don't want my government to have that much power.
BRADY: The development of a cyber security bill in Congress has been widely reported in conservative media as a power grab by the White House. Supporters of the legislation say it's designed to make it more difficult for hackers to disrupt business on the Internet. Tea Party Express Chief Strategist Sal Russo says people, who come to these rallies aren't super focused on specific issues. He says they are motivated by broad ideals.
Mr. SAL RUSSO (Chief Strategist, Tea Party Express): I think there's a feeling that getting a bigger government or higher taxes, a more intrusive government, is a long way to do it. But that's not the answer. I think that's probably unifying thread.
BRADY: And here's another one. A lot of people attending these rallies say they feel left out, as if no one in Washington is listening to them anymore. Jason McGowen(ph) is a machinist from Carson City, Nevada. McGowen says the Tea Party movement is something he can feel a part of.
Mr. JASON MCGOWEN: Before this really happened, the news media made me feel like we were the minority. And that what Obama wants, that's what everybody wants and that I should just shut up because that's what everybody wants, you know? So it's kind of nice to know there is other people out there who think the way I do.
BRADY: The Tea Party Express will motor through about two dozen more cities in the next week and a half, arriving in Washington on September 12th for what the group calls a taxpayer march on D.C.
Jeff Brady, NPR News, Ely, Nevada.
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