In what was either a very dramatic press conference or a very lame rally, some of Capitol Hill’s top Tea Partiers spoke against the president’s move on immigration on Tuesday—and dismissed potential responses from their own party as capitulation.
The event itself was a little baffling, mostly because Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) had previously pitched it on Fox News as a full-fledged rally.
“We need to have a rally,” she said on Hannity last month. “And we need to go visit our senators and our Congressmen because nothing frightens a congressman like the whites of his constituents’ eyes.”
She then told viewers to show up at the Capitol at “high noon” on Dec. 3. By this morning, the event had been downgraded to a “press conference” in a media advisory from Sen. Ted Cruz’s office.
The result was handful of reporters and sign-toting Tea Party activists who circled around Reps. Steve King, Michele Bachmann, Randy Webber, Louie Gohmert, Curt Clawson, and others (as well as Cruz) for an hour or so of speeches about Obama’s executive action on immigration.
Dan Cummins, the pastor of Bridlewood Church in Bullard, Texas, opened the press conference with a prayer.
“May you grant our leaders divine wisdom like King Solomon, and the creative genius of King Uzziah to lead us back to those still waters and those green pastures,” he prayed.
Speakers emphasized one central point: that voting for any funding bill that doesn’t defund the president’s move would be totally unacceptable. Bachmann said that capitulating on the issue would “put duct tape on the mouths of the American people.”
King said such a decision by his party and its leadership would be a breach of the oath of office.
“Anybody that would vote to fund it can’t sincerely take this oath next January, that’s my view,” he said, to applause and cries of “Here, here!”
The press-conference participants didn’t take questions afterward, though some (including King) stuck around to talk more to reporters. One attendee behind me grumbled that there were more journalists than Tea Party activists. Despite sparse attendance, the event still had the accouterments of your typical Tea Party rally; two attendees sported Revolutionary War-era garb, and another held a hot pink sign that said, “It’s about his character Not his color” [sic]. Two more women, who were holding signs of Fox News Host Jeanine Pirro, said they drove 14 hours from Mississippi for the event.
During the 2013 immigration fight, conservatives organized huge crowds to march through Washington and protest the comprehensive immigration reform bill. Today’s tepid showing might suggest that grassroots activists and organizers have lost some of their fervor.