The hard line that congressional tea partiers have drawn in the ongoing budget negotiation efforts seems to be getting thinner.
Having shouldered much of the blame for holding up a vote on a continuing resolution that would avert the impending government shutdown, movement leaders are now scrambling to save face in what could be a political disaster for the Republican Party.
On Thursday, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., founder of the House Tea Party Caucus and a likely White House contender, suggested that holdout conservatives move past riders that would regulate the EPA and defund Planned Parenthood, and pass a “clean bill.” She also disputed the charge that the tea party’s intransigence on those riders has left House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, between a rock and a hard place on negotiating with Democrats.
“I think the conference actually is very unified,” Bachmann said on CNN. “We want to work together to be able to actually cut spending—real, appreciable spending—out of this budget, and I think that House Republicans have bent over backwards to make sure that there is not a government shutdown.”
As opposed to the “cut it or shut it” audience cries she has heard in recent rally appearances, Bachmann said Congress needs to “get serious and get it done."
“I think that it is an admission of failure when we see the government shut down,” she continued. “I think we need to get it done. We need to fight on principle. We need to be practical, but we also need to get the job done.”
But many of Bachmann’s tea party colleagues remain tied to their conditions. Sarah Palin, often paralleled with Bachmann in her support base and presidential ambitions, tweeted Thursday: “$4T later, leaderless govt digs further debt, bickers over cutting peanuts - peanuts we don’t even have. It’s unsustainable! Let him shut it.”
Freshman Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., took Palin’s side in a Friday appearance on CNN, sidestepping Bachmann’s comments but assuring that “it would be hard for me to support” anything less than the $61 billion in cuts for which the tea party has been holding out. West also rebuked many Democrats’ claims that the GOP’s riders, such as stripping Planned Parenthood of government funding, represent an attempt to leverage a fiscal fight with social issues.
“It’s not about social issues,” West said. “What it really is about is reducing the size and scope of the federal government. As we continue to grow and expand the government outside what the constitutional mandates are, we’re going to have more spending.”
But Democrats, at least, are grateful for Bachmann’s change of heart.
“I think she’s absolutely right,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told CNN on Friday. “I hope she follows through on that, and I hope her people follow through on that. Frankly, we’re going to give them an opportunity to do that today.”
House GOP leadership will meet at noon on Friday, and is expected to subsequently offer a deal to avert a government shutdown just hours before it’s slated to shutter at midnight.