It’s been exactly 7 years since Rick Santelli’s Feb. 19, 2009 emotional appeal against foreclosure bailouts on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, arguing on behalf of homeowners who paid their bills on time and in full who were being asked to also assume the costs of their neighbors who were delinquent in their payments and not credit-worthy to begin with.
“This is America! How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor’s mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can’t pay their bills? Raise their hand,” said Santelli to a chorus of boos.
“President Obama, are you listening?” Santelli added.
“We’re think of having a Chicago tea party in July, all you capitalists want to show up to Lake Michigan, I’m going to start organizing… I think we’re going to be dumping in some derivative securities, what do you think about that?”
Within weeks, tea parties with tens of thousands of protestors were popping up all over the country, culminating in a Tax Day Tea Party on April 15, 2009. By 2010, the grassroots movement had helped Republicans reclaim the House of Representatives on an agenda to stop the Obama administration.
But fast forward seven years, and legislative accomplishments by the movement appear few to come by.
In 2011, Republicans had promised to cut spending by $100 billion. Instead, outlays increased by $100 billion that year. They could have attempted rescissions that year to keep the election year promise.
Instead we got sequestration, which arose out of the debt ceiling battle in 2011, an achievement by then House Speaker John Boehner. When a debt “super-committee” faiIed to produce a plan for reducing deficits by $1.2 trillion through 2021, the automatic enforcement procedures went into effect, which reduced the budget baseline by about $275 billion from 2014 through 2016.
But it began to be undone, starting with the Ryan-Murray budget deal of 2013 that came about at the end of the 2013 government shutdown.
In 2014, the original spending cap was ultimately expanded by $38.8 billion. In 2015, by $19.6 billion. In 2016, by $50.8 billion. Already, $105 billion of the $275 billion of planned cuts had been cancelled.
And in 2017 another $30 billion of $90 billion of planned automatic cuts have been cancelled — so far.
That totals sequester being reduced by a third, or $135 billion — and counting — by these bad budget deals. To be fair, the other two-thirds of cuts are still in place.
As for the debt limit, that has been suspended until after Obama leaves office, allowing borrowing through March 2017.
Then there’s everything else. Taxes were increased by $600 billion at the beginning of 2013.
In 2013, House Republicans supplied the funding to implement Obamacare despite a valiant effort to defund it led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
In 2015, Congress funded Obama’s executive amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants with U.S.-born children despite having majorities in both chambers of Congress. Same with Planned Parenthood.
Nothing was done to unwind mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that had so much to do with causing the financial crisis.
Nor was a Dodd-Frank repeal ever laid on Obama’s desk despite Republicans having both houses of Congress since the beginning of 2015.
The Export-Import Bank was reauthorized.
Congress granted Obama fast track trade authority to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
And then, the icing on the cake was the $1.2 trillion, bloated omnibus spending bill that was just enacted at the end of 2015.
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
By 2016, it’s fair to say that the tea party has given up on much hope that this Congress will do anything else to rein in President Barack Obama during his final year in office. They have turned their attention to the Republican presidential race, and put their support behind candidates like Ted Cruz and Donald Trump who bucked the establishment and have won the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire Primary, respectively.
Other candidates, like one-time tea party favorite Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), have failed to gain traction, still mired by his Gang of 8 embrace of illegal immigration amnesty-like policies.
But even with the attention on the nominating process, one can be certain that disaffected GOP voters will still be watching closely on how the Republican Congress handles issues like the Puerto Rico bailout, Obama’s imminent Supreme Court nomination, the mass criminal release bill and the budget.
It’s all a far cry from Santelli’s famous rant of 2009. And yet the spirit of the tea party lives on. One thing is for certain, whoever goes on to win the nomination of either party and ultimately the White House will be held by the same standard — if their election year promises turn out to just be more hot air.
Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.