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After Big Wins, Tea Party Has Big Plans for Congress

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Elizabeth Lee

The loosely organized Tea Party movement made a major statement this week when candidates it backed scored a series of crucial victories in the U.S. elections.  Many of them beat veteran lawmakers from both the Democratic and Republican parties.  Tea Party members say the work now is to make major policy changes from within Congress.  On the Tea Party's top agenda, repealing the health care reform law passed this year.  But analysts say some of the Tea Party's goals are unrealistic.  

The Tea Party movement swept through the United States, bringing people out to rallies and into the voting booth. Tea Party favorite Rand Paul won a Senate seat in the southern state of Kentucky.

"There's a tea party tidal wave and we're sending a message to them," said Paul.

The message Tea Party members want lawmakers in Washington to hear is one of limited government, less federal spending and lower taxes. Exit polls show four out of every 10 Americans who voted considered themselves Tea Party supporters.

The Tea Party heavily backed Republican candidates who share their views.  
Mark Meckler co-founded the group Tea Party Patriots.

"We witnessed something historic," said Meckler. "We witnessed a sea change in the American government. It was a peaceful sea change."

The exact number of winning candidates who share Tea Party values is uncertain.  U.S. media reports show a wide difference in numbers from about 30 candidates to more than 100.  

Regardless of the numbers, Tea Party Patriots plans to host an orientation class for new lawmakers in mid-November to show them what the Tea Party expects them to do on Capitol Hill.

Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin says the top issues are balancing the budget and getting rid of the new health care reform law.

"They want it de-funded immediately and they want it repealed in its entirety eventually," said Martin.

But political science professor Robert Shapiro says that will not happen.

"Any Republican efforts beginning in the House to overturn health care reform won't go very far because the Senate would oppose, and if not the Senate Obama would veto it," said Shapiro.

Election analyst Charlie Cook:

"They're not going to get everything they want and they want to repeal the entire Obama health care plan," he said. "And they have very high expectations of what they want to accomplish and probably unrealistically high."

Robert Shapiro says the Tea Party's high expectations could hurt the Republican Party's ability to get things done in Congress.

"The Tea Party, which actually helped them [Republicans] in this election, may prevent them [Republicans] from engaging in the kind of compromises they [Republicans] think they [Republicans] may need to engage in," he said.

But Tea Party supporter Colin Hanna has this to say:

"You can't necessarily set the positive agenda that we want across the board but you can stop a lot of bad things from happening and that's a step forward," said Hanna.

Members of the Tea Party Patriots say change will take time.  They have a 40 year plan to not only put Tea Party supporters in Congress but also to have them in the courts and in the schools of America.

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