Budget Showdown: Will Tea Party Pressure Add to Stalemate?

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Days away from a potential government shutdown, the Republican leadership is facing increasing pressure from the Tea Party that threatens to disrupt negotiations on the federal budget.

Republicans are struggling to meld policy with the demands of the Tea Party movement, which played a critical role in propelling the GOP back into power in the House. Across the country, in town halls and conferences, Tea Party members say they want to see more action, not excuses, from federal lawmakers in slashing spending and the budget deficit.

Tea Party leaders argue that the cuts proposed by Republicans, both in the continuing resolution for 2011 and beyond, don't go far enough. And even though the Republican leadership has said it will try to avoid a shutdown, supporters of the conservative movement insist they shouldn't cave and if a shutdown is a way to prove a point, then so be it.

"The problem is if your goal is cutting spending and cutting the size of the deficit now, it's difficult to see how you don't end up with a potential government shutdown scenario," said Matt Kibbe, president and chief executive of FreedomWorks, an umbrella organization for Tea Party groups. "You can't simply kick the can down the road, and the Senate Democrats didn't offer a single specific suggestion on savings for the continuing resolution, and it strikes me that that's unacceptable."

"It would be worse for Republicans if the way they got to not getting to a shutdown was by throwing away their goals of reining in federal spending," he added.

Even Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., founder of the Senate Tea Party caucus and the movement's lead supporters, told ABC News last month that he didn't believe his party is doing enough to cut government spending.

"I don't think they realize the enormity of the problem," he said.

Libertarian Party Chairman Mark Hinkle has called the cuts a betrayal to Tea Partiers.

"These cuts are so small, you need a microscope to find them," Hinkle said when the budget proposal was first released by the GOP. "I think the Tea Party supporters were expecting real cuts, not this nonsense."

Republican lawmakers, however, downplayed the idea of a division, saying that the Tea Party -- increasingly anxious to see quick results -- is still trying to find its voice.

"I don't think it's an us versus them," said Joe Barton, R-Texas, a member of the House Tea Party caucus. "I think it's more I guess kind of your second marriage where you trying to meld the two different families into one family. You share the same vision. It's just each side's been used to doing it their way and they got to figure out a way where they work together."

But Barton acknowledged there's a difference between rhetoric and policy that some Tea Party members may not fully comprehend.

"I think they're trying to feel their way how to have a relationship with the majority in the House and impact the situation in the Senate without actually being a part of the Republican party," Barton added. "If you want to make policy, you're going to have to work with people like myself who share your vision but are in a position to do something about it."

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