Tea Party Caucus Silent on Abortion Funding

Newly elected Tea Party senators failed to address federal abortion funding and health care reform with party activists gathered for the first-ever Senate Tea Party Caucus.

A crowd of 150 invited activists from groups such as the Tea Party Express, Americans for Tax Reform and FreedomWorks met with elected tea party candidates Thursday to discuss current victories and future plans.

However, once Senators got down to business, there was no mention of key conservative issues that would cut government spending on abortion providers and save the government millions of dollars.

The meeting began with a victorious tone. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) noted that President Barack Obama's State of the Union pledge against earmarks is evidence of the party's influence: "The tea party has co-opted Washington [D.C.]."

Then conversation shifted to the budget.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) expressed an urgent desire to halt the rising of the federal debt ceiling. He said an incredible debt is threatening to sink the country. Despite being the minority in the Senate, he urged for Republicans to find votes to succeed.

"We don't yet have all of the numbers to do all of the good things that we need to do," DeMitt conceded.

But he went on to say, "We can muster up enough votes to stop raising the debt ceiling without some budget commitment."

The Senators also addressed cutting the budget. According to the LA Times, Paul has already proposed his own budget to cut $500 billion in spending. The budget slashes Interior, Energy and State department budgets and program funding for public radio and television and National Endowment for the arts.

However, he and others made no mention of mustering up votes to topple the health care reform bill or cut Title X entitlements. According to past documents, doing so would save federal dollars.

A Government Accountability Office report released last summer revealed that $1 billion in federal fund have gone to abortion advocacy organizations between 2002 and 2009 through Title X entitlements. Over $657 million went to Planned Parenthood Federation of America alone.

Similarly, loopholes in the Affordable Care Act could potentially add to the money given to abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood. House Republicans have already approved a repeal bill that will move to the Senate. The House is still working on the Title X bill.

Just days ago, religious groups marched in downtown D.C. demanding both measures be approved and made law. Rabbi Yehuda Levin further demanded that no federal budget containing money for abortion providers be approved.

Public Opinion Strategies polls commissioned by the Faith and Freedom Coalition show that religious conservatives, such as those at the 2011 March for Life, make up much of the Tea Party. Just over half of all self-ascribed Tea Party members identified themselves as conservative evangelicals, the polls report.

Still, social reform issues were left out of the conversation.

Also noticeable was the small turnout among Senate Republicans. A hundred GOP members were invited to attend. Only five Republicans showed up. Three spoke to the crowd and one left early.

A Tea Party favorite, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) declined to join the caucus meeting. Rubio announced that the Tea Party is a movement of the people and questioned the need for a Senate caucus.

Still, the Tea Party senators in attendance seemed eager to please. In address to activists, DeMint instructed them to "Remind [supporters] we're listening. We didn't just get elected and forget about them."