TED Cruz's victory in the Republican U.S. Senate primary in Texas notches another political triumph for the tea party movement. Cruz is expected to win in November, as are several other tea party-aligned Senate candidates, including Nebraska's Deb Fisher and Indiana's Richard Mourdock. They'll join others already aligned with the tea party, including Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mike Lee of Utah, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Jim DeMint of South Carolina.
Senate Democrats claim an increased tea party presence will lead to legislative paralysis. U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said, “We have seen the problems that has caused for our ability to govern and find compromise.”
It's true that the U.S. Senate has struggled to govern, but that problem lies entirely at the feet of Senate Democratic leadership. For more than three years, the Senate has failed to pass a budget for the federal government even though one is required by law. The Democrats have been in control the entire time.
Tea party Republicans didn't cause the Democrats' failure to meet one of the most basic requirements of competent governance. In fact, tea party-aligned senators are among those pushing for a budget.
In the House, where Republicans are in charge and tea party concerns respected, lawmakers have repeatedly approved a budget. In the House, the tea party influence has resulted in better governance and forced discussions required to reach compromise. It's also worth noting that Democrats rammed through Obamacare on a party-line vote that required extraordinary parliamentary maneuvering. Those aren't the actions of a political party trying to reach consensus on important issues.
In comparison, the House vote to repeal Obamacare drew bipartisan support. Apparently, those “strident” tea partiers could teach Senate Democrats a thing or two about reaching across the aisle.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., complains that Republicans have mounted 266 filibusters, but Republicans say that's because Reid uses parliamentary maneuvers to prevent them from offering amendments to legislation. Once again, it's Democrats thwarting open debate and legislative give-and-take, not tea partiers.
Oklahoma's own U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, was a tea party-style leader before the tea party was cool or even existed. He's been a fierce opponent of wasteful spending and isn't afraid to gum up the legislative works to stop it. Yet Coburn has worked with Democrats to draft a deficit reduction plan that included the elimination of some tax breaks. He also was part of the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission that developed a plan to cut spending by $3 trillion over 10 years while raising about $1 trillion through overhauling the tax code.
Those were bipartisan efforts requiring compromise from both political parties. They were also rejected by Senate Democratic leadership.
Here in Oklahoma, the tea party label has often been hijacked by fringe candidates who fail to draw voter support. The tea party's national successes have involved candidates with a background in public service and a conservative worldview — people who know how to work within the system.
Intransigence is a problem in the U.S. Senate, but liberal Democrats are the perpetrators. Their fiscal failures are fueling the tea party's growth.