Republicans who support the payroll tax cut extension can expect to face challenges at the upcoming election, Tea Party Patriots founder Mark Meckler warned in an exclusive Newsmax interview on Thursday.
He called the decision by party leaders to back the move without finding a way to fund it “outrageous,” and he vowed it would be remembered come Nov. 6.
“This is the way the Republican leadership has behaved since they were elected and since they were lifted to the majority,” said Meckler, co-author of the new book “Tea Party Patriots: The Second American Revolution.”
“There is going to be a price to play in 2012,” he added. “People think the tea party is after Democratic seats. We’re after all these incumbents who are just part of the power elite, who don’t care about the people, who aren’t getting the message.
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“We are going to see a lot of turnover of members on both sides of the aisle in both houses of Congress.”
The passage of the bill, which is due to be debated on Friday, is virtually assured as it is supported by leaders of both parties. But many tea party caucus members, led by chairwoman Rep. Michele Bachmann, have vowed to oppose it.
Under the plan, the payroll tax holiday will be extended until the end of the year, doctors will be spared a cut in Medicare payments and unemployment benefits will be cut from the present 99 week maximum.
Meckler called the GOP decision “a betrayal of tea party principles” but said he was not surprised. “You can’t just keep voting for things you can’t pay for. The American people know that; apparently the Republican leadership hasn’t learned that.”
Meckler and Jenny Beth Martin, who founded the Tea Party Patriots together, have co-authored the book which he said is the start of a dialogue about what tea party followers believe “it would take to get out of this mess that we find ourselves in.”
He said there are still plenty of misconceptions about the tea party – the biggest being that it is an arm of the Republican Party.
“A full 40 percent of tea partyers nationwide, according to Rasmussen polling, are either Democrats or independents. I myself am an independent,” he said. “That’s fundamental.
“It serves the Republicans to say we’re Republicans and it serves the Democrats to say we’re Republicans and a lot of people think we are and that’s just not the case.
“We’ve been here three years, it’s pretty clear we’re not them and they’re not us.”
Instead, he said, members of the group are “equal-opportunity criticizers,” saying they have no problem calling out the GOP on such issues as the payroll tax cut extension. “We are going to hold them accountable for everything they do that doesn’t fit with tea party values,” he vowed.
The Patriots have not endorsed anyone in the Republican presidential race and Meckler said they will not. When asked which of the candidates best matches up with tea party ideals, he replied. “I don’t think there is a best. There are slices of each.
“If you look at the history of the candidates, they each have significant tea party problems in their past. The process is good, people are vetting the candidates personally, but as for a particular individual, I don’t think there is one.”
But he said tea partyers will be active in selecting the candidate. “They’re paying attention, they’re involved, so the organization, while we don’t endorse, the tea party movement at large is highly engaged.”
But he said there are several people who might have been good contenders, naming South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal as three politicians he sees as holding true to tea party ideals.
But Meckler admitted that it was difficult to know how any of them would have held up had they run. “You learn a lot when people actually stand up and run a campaign,” he said.
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