Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Balancing Constituents, Convictions; REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Balancing Constituents, Convictions; REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON - Tea Party loyalists are finding that ideological purity can be elusive for conservative lawmakers trying to balance their convictions against constituents' election-year needs.

Rep. Paul Ryan, who has won Tea Party praise as Mitt Romney's vice presidential pick, had a General Motors assembly plant that was about to be shuttered in his hometown of Janesville, Wis., when he voted for the $14 billion auto industry bailout in 2008. The seven- term House Republican also voted for the $700 billion financial industry rescue that same year.

He has since criticized both efforts by President George W. Bush to combat that year's near economic collapse. Yet his votes - plus his support for Bush's 2003 debt-financed expansion of Medicare to provide prescription drug coverage - rankle conservatives to this day and underscore the challenge of adhering to small-government principles when voters' bread-and-butter interests are at stake.

More recently, this campaign season has seen some of the House's most conservative members split over a sweeping farm bill, disaster aid to drought-battered farmers and legislation to finance transportation projects and keep student loan interest rates from ballooning. Such divisions have dampened the expectations of Tea Party activists, with some now saying it will take several elections before they win the Washington clout they need.

"No one is going to agree with us 100 percent of the time," Jenny Beth Martin, a national coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots, said of members of Congress. "And we do understand they do have to look at what's best for their district and their constituents."

Martin said that most of all, Tea Party activists want lawmakers to be firm in their convictions. Out of 240 House Republicans and 47 GOP senators, she said there are fewer than 30 House members and about five senators she can reliably count on for support, with too many others focused on bringing federal largesse back home.

The struggles conservatives face were illustrated just before Congress recessed for August, when the House approved $383 million in agriculture disaster aid, mostly for livestock producers and tree farmers. …

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