Tea Party Up In Arms Over Ariz. Freshman's Vote Members of Congress are back in their home districts during the spring congressional recess. And they're facing critiques from voters. Arizona freshmen Paul Gosar was the only Republican from his state to vote for the budget compromise last week.

Tea Party Up In Arms Over Ariz. Freshman's Vote

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/135638557/135640268" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

Members of Congress are back home for the spring recess, and some are getting an earful from their constituents. Paul Gosar represents Arizona's sprawling 1st District. He was the only Republican representative from Arizona's delegation to vote for the budget compromise last week.

And as Daniel Kraker reports from member station KNAU, that decision upset some of his Tea Party backers.

DANIEL KRAKER: Sedona, Arizona, is not your run-of-the-mill American small town. Its towering red rocks lure 4 million tourists every year. And Robin Kelley is not your typical local Tea Party president.

Ms. ROBIN KELLEY (President, Sedona Tea Party): I'm a psychic, a clairvoyant, an energy healer, and I take people out on the rocks to help them empower their lives, which is exactly what the Tea Party is about, is empowering each of us as individuals to participate in the government.

KRAKER: Kelley organized a town hall Wednesday at the Sedona Elks Lodge for Congressman Paul Gosar. Sedona has a reputation as a liberal, New Age town. But Kelley is a small business owner concerned about government spending. And she wasn't happy with Gosar's vote in favor of the budget compromise.

Ms. KELLEY: I tell you, I did not like that vote because we need to cut spending, because we need to cut our deficit. So originally, I hated that decision.

KRAKER: Until she heard Gosar explain it. The congressman says a government shutdown would have left the military without the funding it needs, and he's encouraging his constituents to be patient.

Representative PAUL GOSAR (Republican, Arizona): And this is paltry, yes. You know, Tea Party folks are upset, but you have to get America back into understanding why you have a fiscal problem. You know, not all of us are on the same page, and so it's a learning curve.

Mr. PAT HICKS (Founder, Sedona Tea Party): He didn't convince me the other way, but he did explain how complicated it is.

KRAKER: Pat Hicks founded the Sedona Tea Party group.

Mr. HICKS: For a while there, I was saying come on, guys. Knock it off. We've got a hundred-billion-dollar promise, and now, it's down to 38 billion. No, it doesn't sound right. And now, listening to Gosar today and beginning to understand how difficult it is to take two steps up and one and a half steps backwards, I'm much more sympathetic to their cause.

KRAKER: People at the town hall were much less sympathetic to Gosar's vote in favor of the House budget bill that would significantly transform Medicare. It's a risky vote in a state like Arizona, where retirees known as snowbirds flock to the desert sun and vote in high numbers.

Ms. SUSAN COSENTINO: I'm horrified by the plan to turn Medicare into a voucher system. I think it'll just send the seniors into poverty.

KRAKER: That's retiree Susan Cosentino. The hundred or so people at the town hall in Sedona were mostly seniors. Another, Anne Leap, also works with retirees. She runs a small business connecting them with services they need to live independently.

Ms. ANNE LEAP: Seniors at the lower end are so frightened by all this, and seniors at the upper end, they're just - many of them are just outraged. It's a scary time for us.

KRAKER: Democrats are hoping to take advantage of that fright. Paul Gosar is one of 25 Republican congressmen they're targeting with radio ads.

(Soundbite of radio ad)

Unidentified Man: Did you know Congressman Paul Gosar voted to end Medicare, forcing seniors to pay $12,500 for private health insurance without guaranteed coverage? Tell Gosar to keep his hands off Medicare.

KRAKER: For his part, Gosar says if we don't fix Medicare now, it will bankrupt the country.

Rep. GOSAR: Kicking the can doesn't work anymore. There is a way that we should be able to hold our promise to our seniors and not put it on the back of our future generations. That's where we need to go.

KRAKER: But getting there won't be easy with 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every single day.

For NPR News, I'm Daniel Kraker.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.