Tea Party Activists Not Thankful For Centrist Dems' Health Vote

The Senate health care vote Saturday got the floor debate started, but it pushed the tea party movement closer to the boiling point. Grass-roots activists aim to turn the pressure on fence-sitting Democrats Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas.

Senate Democrats got the bare-minimum 60 votes needed to start debate on the health care bill. Sixty votes will also be needed when the Senate decides to end debate and move to final passage. That may be hard, especially as public opinion continues to sour on a health care overhaul. A Monday Rasmussen poll found that 56% of respondents oppose President Obama’s health care plan; just 38% support it, the lowest yet.

Heat from tea party activists could make it even harder.

Brewing Dissent

“Activists were a little bit frustrated by the procedural vote on Saturday,” said Brendan Steinhauser, director of federal and state campaigns at conservative FreedomWorks. “But they do realize that this battle has just begun in the Senate. I expect activists from around the country to communicate to the three or four senators on the fence how they feel.”

Landrieu, Nelson and Lincoln have all expressed concern with the public option, the bill’s cost and abortion language. (Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., caucusing with the Democrats, has said he will oppose any bill with a public option.

By Tuesday, Landrieu’s main phone had a recorded message saying the answering machines were full before clicking off.

“Responses from Louisiana (on Saturday’s vote) have been mixed,” Aaron Saunders, a spokesman for Landrieu, told IBD via e-mail.

While Landrieu is not planning on spending the holiday getting a clearer picture of the public reaction, she will hold a fundraiser with Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Democratic strategist James Carville in New Orleans on Dec. 12. She can expect protesters.

“There is a group of us going down there,” said Bob Trost, a director on the board of the Southwest Louisiana Tea Party. “How many, I don’t know yet. It just came up.”

The Gift Of Landrieu

Ahead of the vote, the media reported that Reid had included $100 million in new funding for Louisiana to win Landrieu’s support. The senator quickly retorted that that was false.

“It’s not $100 million. It’s $300 million, and I’m proud of it and will keep fighting for it,” Landrieu said.

Since then, bloggers and activists on the right have dubbed her decision to back her party the “Louisiana Purchase.”

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