The Tea Party Returns

While Senate Republicans and Democrats went to work almost immediately after the election to craft an immigration bill, opposition in the House appears to have only grown. And the bill's most vocal adversaries in the House are backed by a vocal Tea Party contingent.

Martin said that Tea Party activists are alarmed by the size and scope of a potential immigration bill, which they view as an "Obamacare" redux.

"The massive bill that's over a thousand pages now, the process through which it's going through the Senate, is very reminiscent of 'Obamacare,'" Martin said, adding that she does not believe a majority of Republicans would support an immigration bill.

And in many quarters of the Tea Party there is clear anger directed at Boehner, who has said that passing comprehensive immigration reform is a top priority in the House this year.

"I think he's kind of gone away from his beliefs and I don't know why," said Bethany Huber, a Tea Party activist who traveled to Washington this week from Peoria, Ill., and who opposes efforts to pass immigration reform. "From my perspective there seems to be people that started out with true beliefs and for whatever reason are falling away from that."

At a Tea Party rally on Wednesday, activists held up a "Boehner, can you hear us now?" sign. Another conjured up a more crude image with two toy balls attached to a message that read "Hey Boehner, since Odumbo took yours, try these."

Gohmert accused "Republican leaders" of trying to change the subject to "amnesty" with an immigration bill, instead of focusing on stopping President Obama's agenda.

Far from being tempered by Obama's reelection in November—where Republicans lost seats in the House, the Senate and the White House—the Tea Party movement and the lawmakers that carry their mantle in Congress seem emboldened to pursue legislation that is popular with their base, and that could serve to widen the ideological gap between the two parties.

"Part of the agenda is to ensure that House Republicans get reelected by and large because most of them come from conservative, safe districts," said Ron Bonjean, a Republican communications veteran of the House and Senate. "And they want to put down a record in order to protect themselves from more conservative candidates running against them in primaries."

But the effort to satisfy Tea Party and other more conservative voters in their districts has come largely at the expense of Boehner and other GOP leaders in the House who appear to have ceded control of the chamber to a minority of its most conservative members.

"What is happening on the floor today was a demonstration of major amateur hour," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., after the farm bill's failure. "If we ever came to you when we had the majority and said we didn't pass a bill because we didn't get enough Republican votes, well, you know, that's really -- it's silly."

"It's sad. It's juvenile. It's unprofessional. It's amateur hour."

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