- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 11, 2009

”Tea party” protesters are rallying their troops once again this summer and zeroing in on the Democrats’ health care legislation after launching a grass-roots rebellion nationwide against big government and taxes earlier this year.

Protest leaders say health care has risen to the top of their battle plans not only because of the massive costs of such overhauls but because the “government-run” legislation working its way through Congress encroaches on the freedoms of all Americans, as the political debate on the issue intensified last week, fueled by angry crowds at ongoing town-hall meetings hosted by members of Congress across the country.

“I think the health care issues symbolize what the great debate in this country is about, and that is the overreaching of government, what is the appropriate role of government, and at what point does excessive government regulations and control interfere with the freedoms and liberties of individuals and their families,” said Joe Wierzbicki, coordinator of the Sacramento, Calif.,-based Our Country Deserves Better Committee.

The group’s Tea Party Express kicks off a bus caravan on Aug. 28 and will host 35 rallies in cities and towns from coast to coast that will end with a taxpayer rally in Washington on Sept. 12 to voice their opposition to health care legislation that Democratic leaders are expected to move through the House and Senate following the August recess.

“We are also asking individuals to go out to these town-hall meetings and express their views and mobilize,” said Mr. Wierzbicki, whose organization was formed during the 2008 elections and now boasts 350,000 supporters.

The cross-country bus tour is being supported by many groups that have been active in the tea party protest movement, including FreedomWorks, the conservative advocacy group headed by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas, the National Tax Limitation Committee, and Tea Party Patriots.

Other organizations were conducting their own lobbying campaigns against the administration’s health care plan, including the Washington-based Americans for Prosperity, which has launched a Patients First bus trip that has been touring through Virginia, North Carolina, Nebraska, and other states. The buses are emblazoned with the campaign’s banner logo “Hands Off My Health Care” and officials said that hundreds of people have turned out at their stops.

Mary Ellen Burke, the spokeswoman for the group, said they also were urging their supporters to attend town-hall meetings in their congressional districts.

“These are real people who came out and care about the issues. They want their voices heard,” she said.

The American Conservative Union has sent out repeated e-mails to its members, providing a list of hundreds of town meetings that have been scheduled thus far by members of Congress, and urging them “to speak up and be heard on the issue of government run health care.”

“The response has been overwhelming,” ACU told its members.

Some groups, like the Club for Growth, are running TV ads in many states to mount pressure on Democratic lawmakers. One of the Club’s ads is targeting 16 House and Senate lawmakers, including one in Nevada that says, “If you oppose government-run healthcare, call [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid.”

The Tea Party Express caravan, which will include two 45-foot buses, several RVs and SUVs, and a moving van for additional equipment, will begin at a rally in Sacramento and head out across the country on 22-day tour of cities from Reno, Nev., to Bridgeport, Conn., before its Washington finale. Advance teams are promoting the rallies in each city, most of which are the hometowns of Democratic lawmakers who are considered vulnerable in the 2010 midterm elections.

“We’ll be running 30-second TV ads opposing Barack Obama’s health care plan as we go across the country to reinforce the message,” Mr. Wierzbicki said. “At the end of the day, most of the politicians in Washington right now are advancing an agenda that we believe is harmful to the country.”

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