Has the IRS Scandal Reenergized the Tea Party?

Emma Dumain Roll Call Staff


The tea party movement, after heating up to a roaring boil in the 2010 election cycle, diminished to a simmer over the past few years.

Some of the movement’s allies who helped Republicans retake the House in 2010 were defeated two years later, President Barack Obama was re-elected by a wide margin to serve a second term in the White House, and House Tea Party Caucus founder Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., went straight from a failed run for the GOP presidential nomination to a narrow re-election to hold her seat.

Rasmussen poll earlier this year revealed that the movement was at its lowest popularity since its inception, with only 8 percent of respondents identifying themselves as tea party supporters, down from 24 percent in 2010.

But in the wake of revelations that tea party groups seeking tax-exempt status were among those targeted by the IRS for extra scrutiny, things are starting to look up for the national coalition of lawmakers, political operatives and concerned citizens who preach for smaller government, advocate lower taxes and fight against infringements on civil liberties.

For perhaps the first time in three years, tea party leaders are seeing a renewed recognition of their relevance, which they anticipate will bring back old supporters, enlist new allies and perhaps even broaden the political base.

“There’s no question” that the movement has been reinvigorated, Bachmann said several hours after a tea party news conference that attracted nearly three dozen congressional lawmakers and representatives from every leading tea party group across the country.

Started with the slogan “Taxed Enough Already,” the tea party has, since its 2010 start, catered primarily to those on the far right who slam excessive taxes and efforts to tighten gun laws. The movement arose as part of the backlash against the 2009 health care debate that offended many who believed that government should not make the types of demands of its citizens that Obamacare would.

Now more moderates could be drawn into the fold, Bachmann said, in part because the IRS scandal is so difficult to renounce.

Democrats have joined with Republicans in vilifying the agency’s actions as a united, bipartisan front with the House Ways and Means and Oversight and Government Reform committees scheduling hearings on the matter. The Senate Finance Committee, helmed by Montana Democrat Max Baucus, has also scheduled a hearing for next week.

In this particular case, politicians of all stripes are finding it easy to sympathize with the tea party groups that claim mistreatment by IRS officials.

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23 May 2013 12:56am
I hope that the Tea Party is reenergized. It will give the National Republican heartburn and, as a result, offset any problems the Democratic candidates have due to Obama's Trifecta.
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