Two hundred and thirty-seven years ago last night, a group of colonists disguised as Indians boarded British merchant ships and dumped an estimated £10,000 worth of tea into Boston Harbor. This Boston Tea Party, which John Adams described as the “grandest event which has ever yet happened since the controversy with Britain opened,” was not just a protest about taxation. Our forefathers did not destroy tea because of a simple tax dispute. The 1773 Tea Party were protesting the process by which the British government taxed them. They were fundamentally rejecting the way the British were governing them.
Last night, the spirit of the Tea Party won another major victory when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D–NV) was forced to drop his $1.27 trillion, 1,924-page omnibus spending bill. The problem with Reid’s omnibus spending bill was not just its size—although our federal government does spend far too much of other people’s money—but the way it was drafted and forced on the American people. For far too long our Congress has amassed more and more spending power into fewer and fewer legislative acts while waiting until the last possible minute to consider them. Lobbyists have made an entire business model out of identifying must-pass appropriations and tax bills and then getting pliant Members of Congress to insert their special breaks, loopholes, and giveaways. The omnibus collapse was a complete rejection of that way of doing business in Washington. Senator John McCain (R–AZ) told National Review: “I know this is a seminal moment, because for the first time since I’ve been here, we stood up and said ‘enough.’”
Last night’s victory could not have happened without the Tea Party. Earlier in the day, Tea Party–defeated outgoing- Senator Robert Bennett (R–UT) was working “actively to round up as many as nine potential Republican votes” for the omnibus bill stuffed with 6,000 earmarks worth $8 billion. But then Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R–KY) worked the phones all day twisting the arms of those nine Republicans, many of them members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, to drop their support for the bill. It was not an easy sell. Senator Thad Cochran (R–MS), the ranking member of the Appropriations Committee, had 281 earmarks worth $561 million in the bill. McConnell himself had 48 earmarks worth $113 million. But wisely, these lawmakers eventually saw the light. McConnell told National Review afterward: “We decided that we’re not going to pass a 2,000-page bill that nobody has seen since yesterday. That’s not the way to operate and that’s not the message from the November elections.”
Tea Party activists across the country should take a moment to celebrate this victory. But only a moment. Not all of the 111th Congress has gotten the message of the November elections. Too many on Capitol Hill seem to be operating under the belief that the American people voted in November to have President Barack Obama’s agenda shoved down their throats in December. The Hill reports: “Democrats will move instead to two high priorities on their legislative agenda: the DREAM Act, which would grant permanent legal residency to illegal immigrants under a certain age, and a repeal of the military’s ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy.” And let’s not forget the Boxer–Reid Land Grab and New START.
None of these issues demands resolution by a Congress that was “shellacked” at the polls last month. According to Gallup, the American people dislike this 111th Congress more than any other Congress in history. Specifically, a full 83 percent of Americans disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job, while only 13 percent approve. That is the worst approval rating in more than 30 years of tracking congressional job performance. Last night Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D–CA) House voted to prevent a massive tax hike on the American people. It now looks like Congress will pass a simple bill that freezes spending through February of next year. The 111th Congress has no mandate; they must go home and let the Tea Party Congress govern.