Could Tea Party Reshape the Afghanistan Debate?

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Sen. Rand Paul, R- Ky., has openly expressed skepticism about U.S. military priorities. On Thursday, eight House Republicans voted with Democrats on a failed bill that calls for the complete removal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan by no later than December 31.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, blasted the Obama administration for its handling of the Afghanistan war, saying the U.S. policy currently is more about being "politically correct" than defending troops.

"We must use our forces around the world when there is a direct threat on the United States of America," said Chaffetz, who himself has spoken in favor of the Tea Party on numerous occasions. "That is not confined to the boundaries of Afghanistan."

Preble, a longtime supporter of pulling out troops and funding from Afghanistan, says there is a disconnect when it comes to Washington insiders and those outside the Beltway, both on the right and the left. But, he said, the issue is likely to crop up in some form in 2012, even if foreign policy isn't the defining issue.

"The Tea Party values outsiders... they don't have a strong opinion about foreign policy, but they don't hold it against somebody because they don't agree with what the Washington consensus is," he said. "So at a minimum it would seem to be a wash and probably slightly more so in the direction of Tea Party having the effect of pulling the Republican candidates perhaps more in the direction of restraint."

The Afghanistan issue is just one part of the ongoing debate over budget cuts. Tea Party members want to see more action from conservatives on tackling entitlements and the hefty budget deficit.

Many have expressed strong disapproval of the continuing resolutions that have kept the government afloat thus far, saying these piecemeal solutions don't address the deficit issue.

"Somebody needs to man up and make the tough decisions that need to be made," Kremer said. "I didn't expect them to come in and change it overnight but they just continue to kick the can down the road and everybody's losing patience."

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