The GOP's counterinsurgency by spenders

Posted on July 20, 2010

The Republican establishment in Washington is bracing itself for an influx of fiscally conservative insurgents this fall, as Tea Party candidates from Utah, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Wisconsin, Nevada and other states have either secured their party's Senate nominations or are running strong. Bemoaning the earthquake their arrival on Capitol Hill portends, former Senate majority leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) told The Post this past weekend, "We don't need a lot of Jim DeMint disciples" in the Senate, adding "as soon as they get here, we need to co-opt them."

Jim DeMint can rest easy. It is unlikely that folks like Mike Lee, Ron Johnson or Sharron Angle will be co-opted if they win. But come November there may be some new Republican senators eager to join the club. While the media has focused on the rise of the Tea Party movement and the success of conservative insurgents in GOP primaries, there is another smaller insurgency taking place under the radar screen -- a quiet insurgency of more moderate Republicans for whom fiscal discipline is not a top priority.

With the departure of Sen. Arlen Specter to the Democratic Party, it seemed as if Republican moderates were a dying breed. All that was left of the troika that put President Obama's $787 billion stimulus over the top were the women from Maine -- Sen. Susan Collins and Sen. Olympia Snowe. But then Sen. Scott Brown arrived in January, and he has hewed a centrist course -- recently joining Collins and Snowe in providing the GOP votes needed to pass both President Obama's big spending "jobs" bill (a.k.a. "son of stimulus") and his financial regulation bill filled with budget gimmicks that will eventually add more than $5 billion to the deficit. Judging from the comments on Brown's Facebook page, many Tea Party activists believe they were duped. But the Republican senator from Massachusetts is simply voting like, well, a Massachusetts Republican.

Others may soon join the big-spending ranks. In Delaware, one of the most liberal Republicans in the House, Rep. Mike Castle, is the favorite to become the state's next senator. And in Illinois, moderate Republican Rep. Mark Kirk holds a narrow lead in the Illinois Senate race for Obama's seat. Both have weak records on fiscal issues. Castle rates a lowly "C" from the National Taxpayers Union, while Kirk gets a slightly better "C+" rating.

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