Tea Party tries to Balance Ideology, Constituents
Rep. Paul Ryan, who has won tea party praise as Mitt Romney’s vice presidential pick, had a General Motors assembly plant that was about to be shuttered in his hometown of Janesville, Wis., when he voted for the $14 billion auto industry bailout in 2008. The seven-term House Republican also voted for the $700 billion financial industry rescue that same year.
He has since criticized both efforts by President George W. Bush to combat that year’s near economic collapse. Yet his votes - plus his support for Bush’s 2003 debt-financed expansion of Medicare to provide prescription drug coverage - rankle conservatives to this day and underscore the challenge of adhering to small-government principles when voters’ bread-and-butter interests are at stake.
More recently, this campaign season has seen some of the House’s most conservative members split over a sweeping farm bill, disaster aid to drought-battered farmers and legislation to finance transportation projects and keep student loan interest rates from ballooning. Such divisions have dampened the expectations of tea party leaders, with some now saying it will take several elections before they win the Washington clout they need.