From POST POLITICS at the Washington Post:
A sparse crowd of tea party activists gathered beneath the U.S. Capitol on Thursday to urge Congress to cut more spending from the current federal budget and to cheer on some of their favorite politicians, including Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Mike Pence (R-Ind.) and Steve King (R-Iowa).
One organizer estimated that a couple of hundred protesters had gathered near the Robert A. Taft bell tower north of the Capitol at lunchtime Thursday. According to a media sign-in sheet, at least 50 of those present were journalists documenting the latest tea party rally in Washington.
Because there’s nothing more important for them to be covering than a handful of members of the Batshit Bachmann fan club?
The rally was billed as a chance to tell lawmakers, particularly the Republican leadership and those newly elected with tea party support, that they must push for the full $100 billion in cuts from the current federal budget that they promised — and also for the elimination of $105 billion in federal spending to begin implementing the health-care legislation enacted last year.
“You’re revved up!” Bachmann declared to the cheering crowd. “You’re fighting! What I’ve seen across America is, you’re paying more attention than ever!”
But after a few days of buzz on the political blogosphere, the grassy expanse where organizers had set up a tiny platform for speakers and a wide riser for television cameras seemed more of a showcase for the Washington media than anything else.
Most of the ralliers had traveled from nearby communities in Virginia and Maryland — although an organizer said buses had come in from New Jersey, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania as well.
From David Weigel at SLATE:
At 10:51 a.m. on Thursday, the speaker of the House took questions from reporters about the tick-tick-tick toward a possible government shutdown. “Democrats are rooting for a government shutdown,” said John Boehner. “Our goal is to cut government spending, not shut down the government. […]”
An hour or so later, a couple of blocks away, about 200 Tea Party activists trod over damp grass to hear their leaders respond to Boehner. There was at least one reporter for every three or four activists. They were there to hear conservatives rip into Republicans for statements like the one Boehner had just made. “I think there are more press than Tea Party Patriots here,” joked freshman Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., in an aside to one of the organizers.
Jenny Beth Martin, the national coordinator of Tea Party Patriots, kicked off the rally as Republican members of Congress lined up to give their speeches. She didn’t contradict Boehner at all. “They’re blatantly saying that if we go to a government shutdown, it’s the Tea Party’s fault,” said Martin.
The Tea Party’s role in this has been wily. While Jenny Beth Martin was echoing the GOP’s message, her co-leader, Mark Meckler, was telling the Associated Press that Boehner would “face a primary” if he compromised. Most of the speakers at the Thursday rally avoided that talk. When Rep. Mike Pence went there—carefully preceding the shutdown talk by blaming it on Democrats—it did get applause.
“If liberals in the Senate would rather play political games, and shut down the government instead of making a small down payment on fiscal discipline and reform,” said Pence, “I say shut it down.”
“Cut it or shut it!” yelled some protesters near the front of the stage. “Cut it or shut it!”