- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 6, 2011

House Speaker John A. Boehner and the GOP’s uneasy partnership with the tea party seems to be fraying at the edges.

Three days after the founder of one of the largest tea party groups called Mr. Boehner, Ohio Republican, a “fool,” the head of the congressional Tea Party Caucus declined to defend her House colleague.

Rep. Michele Bachmann, appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” said the “tea party coalition is hanging together more strongly than ever,” but she ducked questions about Mr. Boehner’s problems with the tea party.

Mrs. Bachmann, Minnesota Republican, didn’t even use the speaker’s name, sticking instead to her talking points about $105 billion that she contends was misappropriated by Democrats in the Obama health care law.

Pressed by host David Gregory, the potential 2012 GOP presidential contender offered a lukewarm defense of Republican efforts, led by the speaker, to cut the federal deficit.

“What we are trying to do as Republicans in the House is look for every place we possibly can to cut spending. We have done our part to look for cuts,” she said, citing the GOP plan for cutting more than $60 billion during the rest of the current fiscal year from current spending levels. But, she said, “We can’t stop there.”

She added that she disagrees with Mr. Boehner on raising the debt ceiling.

“We are just giving Congress a license to keep on spending,” she said.

But while Mrs. Bachmann was mum on Mr. Boehner on Sunday, other tea party leaders took shots in the past week.

On Wednesday, Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips said in a blog post that “Charlie Sheen is making more sense than John Boehner,” and he called for a tea party-backed opponent to the speaker in 2012 if budget-cutting efforts don’t get more aggressive.

Mr. Phillips said Mr. Boehner is backpedaling on promises Republicans made last fall to cut at least $100 billion from the current fiscal year’s spending levels.

Tea Party Patriots co-founder Mark Meckler told CBS News that the two-week spending deal between Republicans and Democrats is “just pathetic.”

The comments from tea party leaders come as a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds the public’s support for drastic budget cuts could be waning.

In the poll, 80 percent of respondents said they are concerned about the federal deficit, but more than 60 percent, including swing voters, are also concerned about the negative effects federal cuts could have on their own lives.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the No. 3 Republican in the House, told CNN recently the speaker deserves more credit for concessions Democrats have made on the budgeting process.

“We’re just starting,” the California Republican said, asking for more patience. “I understand the frustration … . We have frustrations the same about where government was going. That’s why we ran for office.”

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