Tea Party Nation: What Would a Tea Party Congress Look Like?

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Lower taxes, limited government, spending cuts -- Tea Party candidates have united on some common elements that have often separated them from the Republican party.

Tea Partiers have rejected most of the Obama administration's policies but also many of those implemented by President George W. Bush.

So what would a Congress controlled by Tea Partiers actually look like?

Tea Partiers say their primary goal is to protect the Constitution and restore the founding principles of the country. Yet experts say the path to that ideal is less than clear.

Historian and author Ron Chernow, whose new book "Washington: A Life" hit bookshelves Tuesday, says the Founding Fathers themselves had vociferous debates over whether the Constitution should be interpreted literally or more figuratively, and that debate was never resolved.

The Founding "Fathers were furiously opiniated individualistic people who didn't agree on anything," he said. "The impression that they marched in lockstep, that's not the case."

When it comes to specifics, Tea Party candidates are vowing to overturn Obama administration policies. For one, they want to eliminate taxpayer-funded bailouts. Tea Partiers are united in their opposition of federal funding to save falling banks and the auto industry -- even though the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) was crafted by President Bush's Republican administration in 2008.

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Back then, several Republicans supported the measure, including now-House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio. Thirty four Senate Republicans voted for the bill that authorized TARP. However, Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C. -- one of the Tea Party's most stalwart supporters in the Senate -- voted against it on the grounds that it "socializes private losses."

The health care landscape would also be vastly different than that envisioned by the Obama administration, if the Tea Party has its way. Tea Party candidates across the country have vowed to push for a repeal of the new health care law and create a system with little government involvement and a bigger onus on the private sector.

Some Tea Party candidates also view Medicare and Social Security as a liability; Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle once suggested that the programs should be phased out and replaced with a private system. Rand Paul, the Republican Senate candidate in Kentucky and a Tea Party favorite, dubbed Medicare "socialized medicine." Ron Johnson, the Senate candidate in Wisconsin called Social Security a Ponzi scheme, and Joe Miller, the Republican candidate in Alaska, has said the Social Security program violates the mandates of the Constitution.

Since garnering the national spotlight though, some candidates have tempered their comments on the subject. Angle now says she supports personalizing Medicare and keeping the federal government out of it, while Paul now argues that Medicare payments for doctors should not be cut.

Under a Tea Party-controlled Congress, tax cuts would likely be made permanent. Across the board, conservative candidates are united in their support for extending the Bush-era tax cuts that President Obama has said only benefit the wealthy.

South Carolina gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley has even suggested that corporate income taxes be abolished.

But even as Tea Partiers support lower taxes, they also say they will balance the budget when they come into power. Ideas on how to do that have been mixed and murky -- Angle supports abolishing the Department of Education while Paul argues that federal entitlement programs should be cut and suggested raising the age for Social Security and Medicare recipients.

On social issues, expect more stringent rules on same-sex marriage and abortion -- which Tea Party candidates unanimously oppose -- more gun rights, and more state's rights on issues such as education and immigration.

Tea Partiers also argue that security on the U.S.-Mexico border should be tightened and illegal immigrants should not be given a path to legal residence.

The "Contract from America," endorsed by FreedomWorks and several other Tea Party groups, gives a glimpse into the direction that a Tea Party-controlled Congress would take the country. The contract offers few specifics. Instead, there are broad guidelines on economic freedom, ending "runaway government spending," stopping tax hikes and cutting earmarks.

The Tea Party phenomenon is not unlike the grassroots movement that propelled candidate-Obama to victory. Both were as result of strong anti-Washington sentiment and the idea that change is needed in the way the government works.

More than 35 candidates in the mid-term elections are backed by national Tea Party groups and an increasing number of those who are part of the Republican establishment are tuning in to Tea Party ideas.

Joe Miller in Alaska and Rand Paul in Kentucky have very strong chances to win their respective Senate seats.

"One of the beautiful things about the Tea Party is that it has attracted so many people around mainstream similar goals of getting our government back to basics and getting spending under control," said John O'Hara, author of "A New American Tea Party." "We can't continue on the same path."

While the Tea Party's influence is on the decline, according to the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, enthusiasm within the group is still very high. Among registered voters who strongly support the movement, 92 percent said they were certain to vote next month.

Chernow, a Constitutional historian, said it's not uncommon to see such dissent and frustration when the economy is weak. But whether candidates actually fulfill their promises when they take power is another story.

"What we've found through American history is that very often people who run against Washington, once they control Washington, develop a taste for power or don't really have the courage to cut spending... every spending program has a constituency," Chernow said. "Under Ronald Reagan, the government continued to grow and increase entitlement programs, defense spending."

"It's easier for groups out of Washington to promise to cut taxes, often difficult to deal with in practice," he added.