Saturday, November 3, 2012

Frank Guinta - Tea Party or Not Tea Party?

Frank Guinta, our Representative to the U.S. House from the First District of New Hampshire, rode into office on a Tea Party wave in 2010.   Back then he was proud to be part of the Tea Party.    In 2012 the Tea Party's popularity seems to have waned somewhat, and Rep. Guinta scoffs at suggestions that he's a Tea Party member.    As you watch his attempts to distance himself from the Tea Party, it's good to know Rep. Guinta's history with the movement.

We'll consider Frank's Tea Party membership two different ways.  First, we'll look at what he's said about it.   Next, we'll compare his position on the issues to the Tea Party.

Frank Guinta's History with the Tea Party

The national movement is usually thought to have really begun on February 19, 2009 with Rick Santelli's suggestion on CNBC to have a Tea Party in response to the Obama administration's mortgage refinancing plan.

Frank Guinta hopped on the Tea Party bandwagon pretty quickly.     Here's a video of then Mayor Guinta speaking at a Tea Party Rally less than two months later, on Tax Day, April 15, 2009.

Guinta: This is America. This is grassroots effort at its finest, you all should be congratulated for standing up for your values, your right and the responsibility that we all have as Americans to tell our leaders stop spending our money!  It is not easy to stand alone in the fight against liberals.
Let's skip ahead to the Republican primary for NH first district.    A Concord Monitor article written November 4, 2010 says

During the Republican primary, [Guinta] easily won a straw poll held by the New Hampshire Tea Party Coalition, taking 81 percent of the vote. Guinta's margin of victory over his Republican challengers was the most decisive of any contest featured in the Tea Party poll.
Guinta said at the time that he was honored by the results of the straw poll and cited his attendance at several Tea Party events, as well as gatherings for the 9/12 movement started by Fox News commentator Glenn Beck.

I don't think Mr. Guinta is that enthusiastic about associating with Glenn Beck these days.  It wouldn't work with his "bipartisan" image.

The same article talks about how, once elected, Guinta planned to join the House Tea Party Caucus.

Elected Tuesday with the support of Tea Partiers and pledging deep cuts to federal government, Frank Guinta will soon be one of many freshman House Republicans left to figure out where the fledgling movement fits within the halls of Congress.
The former Manchester mayor has said he would join a House Tea Party Caucus created this summer by U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, a Republican from Minnesota. So far, the caucus counts 52 members and represents the first formal organizing of the movement at a congressional level.
In March 2011 the House Tea Party Caucus met, but Rep. Guinta was nowhere to be found.  He had decided not to join.  By April and May, the growing unpopularity of the Tea Party was softening Guinta's rhetoric.

In debt ceiling crisis in July, 2010,  Frank ends up parting with some of his more extreme Tea Party colleagues and voting for the debt deal.   It's enacted.   This is the deal that raised the debt ceiling, cut some spending, and created the "supercommittee" to negotiate further cuts.   It includes the now infamous "sequester cuts" of military and domestic programs that are scheduled to kick in in January 2013 (part of the fiscal cliff) now that the supercommittee has failed.

Frank explained how his vote related to the Tea Party this way:
Rep. Frank Guinta, R-N.H., said although the Tea Party is not entirely on the same page, it does not mean members are divided.
"We're in the same book, we're in the same chapter," Guinta told ABC News. "Some might be a little bit farther ahead than others. But we're all going down the road of fiscal discipline and fiscal responsibility.
With the debt ceiling deal, had Frank forsaken the Tea Party?  No, as this Union Leader piece from August 12, 2011, entitled "Guinta Smooths Things Over with Tea Party" points out:
Keeping on the right side of the Tea Party is a priority for U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta. The freshman representative embraced the Tea Party movement sooner than other Republicans, and support from the new activists may have made the difference in Guinta’s narrow primary victory a year ago.
Monday night, Guinta spoke to nearly 100 Tea Party-oriented conservatives at a meeting hosted by the Rochester 9/12 group to address grumblings on the right about his vote to increase the debt ceiling. In an impressive performance, Guinta fielded more than 20 questions over 90 minutes, disarmed most of his critics, and successfully persuaded the group he’s still on their side.
Frank is of course backpedalling furiously now that it's clear the sequester cuts he helped enact will cause New Hampshire to lose jobs.   It seems the Tea Party really didn't mean to cut government spending when it turns out some defense jobs would be cut.   

The Tea Party is a bit muddled on this point.   That's My Congress tells this story about House Amendment 563
In July of 2011, Rep. Barney Frank introduced an amendment to H.R. 2219 which would have cut the U.S. military budget by $8.5 billion, stipulating that no cuts were to be taken from pay or benefit programs supporting members and veterans of the armed forces. These cuts would have reduced the emphasis of the U.S. budget on weapons programs and also furthered the declared aim of Tea Party and GOP politicians to reduce spending. Yet a majority of Tea Party and GOP politicians blocked the cuts: their support for military spending trumped their aim of fiscal restraint. 
Rep. Guinta has followed a conservative course by voting against this bill.
A similar confusion over Tea Party ideals occurred the previous May over the reauthorization of the Patriot Act.
Reflecting the rhetoric of the broader Tea Party movement, Tea Party Express, FreedomWorks and the Tea Party Caucus each proclaim themselves to be organizations dedicated to constitutional government.  If we take these declarations seriously, then we should expect members of Congress associated with these three Tea Party organizations to cast votes against bills that subvert the United States Constitution.
Guinta voted for the Act, apparently with little regard to Tea Party concerns about the constitution.

During the debt ceiling debate, it was clear Frank was distancing himself from the Tea Party:
As we move into a 2012 presidential general election cycle, it is unlikely that 2010 Tea Party candidates Bass or Guinta will court the deepest part of the GOP base so closely again.  Whether or not the Tea Party acts on that rejection is another question.

This is getting long, so let's just skip ahead to 2012.   In the recent NPR debate
Guinta said Shea-Porter has resorted to “name-calling” in an effort to undercut what he has accomplished.  “This notion of labeling every Republican as a member of the tea party is ridiculous.”
Well, that Frank sure is a slippery fellow.   He's just your garden variety Republican -- never mind all that Tea Party stuff.   But the Internet has a long memory, and the press and left are now in the habit of sticking Guinta with the "Tea Party" moniker:

Tea Party Lawmaker Frank Guinta Draws Ire Over Medicare Vote

Rep. Guinta's Tea Party Stance on the Issues

 In this very short clip, Frank adopts the "Don't Tread On Me" mantra of the Tea Party:

In the summer of 2010, Frank Guinta actually filled out a survey for Raymond Area Tea Party.  You can read it yourself -- Frank goes almost 100% for the Tea Party line in his answers.   Here are some highlights:
12. Would you support a law that mandates teaching both creationism as well as evolution as theories in public school science classes?
Yes I would. I do think however that the ultimate control of education and curriculum should be left up to parents.
20. Would you consider yourself pro-choice or pro-life?
Pro-Life. As a father, I understand the value and dignity of every child - born and unborn. It is for this reason that I recognize the importance of defending the sanctity of human life.
It's clear that by this time, in summer 2010, the Tea Party was as concerned about the social issues of abortion and creationism as they were about debt and the constitution.   It was mostly the same people all along.

Frank Guinta has agreed with the Tea Party.   I leave it to the reader to judge if this is just an opportunistic pairing, a movement that Guinta attached himself to, rode to power, and is now trying to distance himself from to remain in power.  Or, is the Tea Party an expression of Rep. Guinta's true beliefs, and his distancing of late is solely and electoral strategy?   Either way, I'm hopeful he and his Tea Party ways will be ended on Election Day this Tuesday.

[Originally published Nov 3, 5:40pm.   Date changed so that list on right stays complete through election day.]

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