Will the Republican Leadership Face a Tea Party Rebellion?

Discontent is boiling over tax cuts bill and GOP leadership positions.

ByABC News
December 17, 2010, 6:46 PM

Dec. 20, 2010— -- The new Congress hasn't been seated yet but signs of a rift are already beginning to emerge between Republican leaders and Tea Party groups who were a driving force propelling many unknown candidates to victory last month.

From the tax cuts extension bill to the food safety legislation to Republican selections for key House committee leadership posts, Tea Party leaders have expressed outrage at what they perceive is a continuation of the same old Washington-style politics.

"In addition to the 'backroom deal' tax compromise, last week, through their appointments to chairmanships of the Energy and Commerce and the Appropriations committees, they [House Republican leaders] sent a clear message that despite an electoral victory driven by the Tea Party movement and fueled by public disgust with incumbents, Washington is back to business as usual," Tea Party Patriots founders Jenny Beth Martin and Mark Meckler wrote in a scathing op-ed in Politico.

The Tea Party dissent on tax cuts was clear in the House, where the movement's supporters like Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. -- founder of the Tea Party caucus -- voted against the bill. Sen.-elect Rand Paul of Kentucky said he would lean against voting for it if he were in office, while Tea Party darling Sarah Palin called it a "lousy deal."

The Tea Party's discontent, however, hasn't gone unnoticed. As they were assailed on the tax cuts front, the GOP leadership quickly distanced themselves from the 1,924-page, $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill filled with $8.3 billion worth of earmarks. Many Republicans initially supported the bill and were in fact responsible themselves for many of the earmarks, including the top two pork projects.

"On the omnibus bill, [Senate majority leader] Harry Reid didn't have the votes and I think that's a testament to the strength and the power of the movement," Amy Kremer, chairwoman of the Tea Party Express, a critical player in the 2010 midterm elections, told ABC News. "The Tea Party movement is alive and well and it's still engaged and we're going to hold these people's feet to the power."

With the new Congress yet to be seated, it remains unclear how closely the Republican leadership can align their interests with that of the Tea Party movement.

But it is clear that the GOP leadership may have to shrug off some of its traditional ways of doing business.

Pressured partly by the Tea Party, many Republican lawmakers have already disavowed earmarks, saying they won't put any pork projects in bills even though they could lose millions for projects in their home districts and states.