The Tea Party is back in Washington and they are madder than ever.
Backed by more than a dozen lawmakers from the House and the Senate, thousands of Tea Party activists gathered on the Capitol lawn to vent their frustration with the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of conservative groups, the prospects of a comprehensive immigration reform bill passing through Congress, and the National Security Agency's surveillance program.
"They did all they could to rob us of our first amendment rights by silencing our speech, stifling our assembly and stopping our petitions," said Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder and national coordinator of Tea Party Patriots. "Ladies and gentlemen, ours is a government that is too big and too powerful."
"We are going to throw [the IRS] over like a box of British tea," added Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga.
The rally, which was mirrored by a separate Tea Party event opposing immigration reform on the other side of the Capitol, also appeared to be a show of strength by the movement, which has little in the way of a central organization but plenty of anti-government fervor.
"I'm a little confused, The New York Times told me the Tea Party was dead," said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. "The IRS told me the Tea Party is dead."
While investigations of the IRS in the House have yet to turn up any evidence that the practice of targeting conservative groups was directed by Washington, the consensus in the crowd and among activists was that the IRS's latest misdeeds is just more evidence that the agency should no longer exist.
"The very best solution is, we need to abolish the IRS," Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., offered to loud applause. "We need to take every one of those IRS agents and put them on our Southern border."
"Now that's mostly a joke, but I got to admit if you were coming over illegally, you crossed the border and saw an army of IRS agents, you'd turn around and go home," he added.
Signs that read "1984 Was Not Supposed to Be an Instruction Manual," "Labor Tax = Slavery," "Boehner, Can You Hear Us Now?" and "Stop the IRS Abuse of Power" littered the lawn, reflecting a diverse set of grievances against the Obama administration and Washington in general.
"It's getting to the point where … if you say anything against the government, then you're targeted," said Janette McGargill of Minneapolis, who held a sign that read "The Content of My Prayers: Jail Time for the IRS!" "They have the ability to put you in jail. They have the ability to destroy your whole life."
"I'm in the process of buying a gun for the first time," she added. "I'm not going to let this government get away with taking my liberties."
Speaker after speaker vented their anger with the Obama administration and members of both parties in Congress for defending the National Security Agency's surveillance program, the details of which were leaked to the press by a former employee, Edward Snowden.
"In the building that stands behind me and in front of you right now they are excusing the storing of all data, all phone calls, all financial transactions ... geo-tracking; they are doing it in the name of our safety while allowing anyone to cross our borders either on foot or in underground tunnels without any worry or consequence," said the rally's biggest star, conservative radio host Glenn Beck, prompting widespread boos from the audience.
Though the rally was only organized a few days in advance, the audience was a hodge-podge of activists from nearby Tea Party groups in Virginia and from as far away as Illinois and Washington State.
More than a dozen Republican lawmakers delivered red-meat speeches against the misdeeds of the Internal Revenue Service and pledging that they would not rest until they fully investigated the agency's targeting of conservative groups.
"The IRS audited me one too many years in a row," said Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa. "And I thought, I'd like to get rid of the IRS. I don't need them looking through my books. I don't need them telling my pastor or my priest what he's going to be able to preach from the pulpit. In fact, it's not even the government's business how much money you make. That's a part of freedom."
And there was plenty of anger aimed at Republican leadership in the House for their openness to immigration reform legislation that could potentially have a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants.
"Now a majority of Americans are saying, 'Wait a minute. We get what the founders were saying, we don't trust the government either. We want some gridlock so you don't keep passing laws every day that need more and more regulations,'" said Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, who has played a key role in opposing the immigration reform in the House. "And just at that point unfortunately, some of our Republican leaders have said, Now that Americans get it, let's change to subject and talk about amnesty."
"It's time … to say, Resolved, Mr. President when you do your job and secure the border as confirmed by more border states, then we'll take up immigration that desperately needs reform," he added.