Tea party activists are targeting Senate Republicans who voted in favor of a controversial immigration reform bill with plans to pack town hall meetings and jam phone lines over the 4th of July holiday, Politico reports
"The anger is more intense now than it was in 2010," said Judson Phillips, founder of Tea Party Nation. "They are more upset about the amnesty bill than they were about Obamacare."
Amy Kremer, chairwoman of Tea Party Express, predicts some lawmakers will avoid public appearances during the holiday to sidestep embarrassing showdowns with an angry conservative base. Senators don't want a repeat of videotaped town hall meetings in previous years that showed haughty lawmakers in shouting matches with angry constituents.
But Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, whose amendment on border control convinced 14 in his party to support the omnibus bill, thinks those who opposed the measure will face a bigger backlash from voters.
"Once they understand what this amendment really does — in spite of the demagoguing of some of my colleagues — I think they’ll say: 'wait a minute. So people voted against 20,000 border patrol agents?'" Corker said.
The immigration bill approved by the Senate last week on a vote of 68 to 32, would grant amnesty to 11 million illegal immigrants. Corker's border security provision was criticized by Republicans opposing the bill for making half-hearted efforts like authorizing 20,000 new agents, but not authorizing funding to pay the border officials.
But a spokesman for Corker challenged that assessment.
The Hoeven-Corker amendment not only authorizes and appropriates all of the necessary funding for implementation of its border security measures up front, the spokesman explained, but it also makes the ability to adjust to green card status contingent on the full deployment of those measures, including the 20,000 additional border patrol agents.
Also targeted for a primary challenge by Tea party Floridians is Sen. Marco Rubio, a high-profile author of the bill.
"We’ve already been out there protesting, not just me – all the tea parties around Florida have already done that," said Cindy Lucas with the tea party affiliated Martin County 9/12 Committee. "There is a move to look for a candidate to primary him out."
Added Phillips: "Marco Rubio can forget about his presidential aspirations. He’s not going to be able to hold his Senate seat."
The Daily Beast reports
that Tea Party Patriots is also looking to target Republicans who voted in favor of the bill in next year's election, including Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
Other Republican supporters of the bill up for reelection next year include Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Susan Collins of Maine.
"If strong, conservative challengers emerge in these races, we will support them." Matt Hoskins, executive director of the Senate Conservative Fund said in an email Friday to supporters.
Hoskins warned that if Sen. John McCain of Arizona, another Republican author of the bill, does not retire in 2016, he will face a primary challenge.
"He’s not just a liberal. He’s also first class jerk," Hoskins told Roll Call
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