Tea party trio seek­ing their roles in a Trump pres­i­dency

Ru­bio, Lee, Paul must wait and see

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY SETH MCLAUGHLIN

They were the toast of the 2010 tea party move­ment, but Don­ald Trump’s elec­tion has left Sens. Marco Ru­bio, Rand Paul and Mike Lee search­ing for new roles as they be­gin their sec­ond terms in of­fice.

Each of the three climbed onto the na­tional stage as new kids on the block, oust­ing Repub­li­can es­tab­lish­ment fa­vorites and be­com­ing the face of the anti-Washington tidal wave that swept the elec­tions that year.

But Mr. Trump has out­flanked them — and ev­ery­one else — in the anti-Washington sweep­stakes in 2016, de­feat­ing both Ken­tucky’s Mr. Paul and Florida’s Mr. Ru­bio in this year’s Repub- li­can pres­i­den­tial pri­mary, and leav­ing them to re­build their ca­reers as Capi­tol Hill play­ers.

Whether they and Mr. Lee, a lib­er­tar­ian-lean­ing con­ser­va­tive from Utah who re­mained at odds with Mr. Trump through­out the cam­paign, be­come con­gres­sional al­lies of the in­com­ing pres­i­dent or con­tin­ued thorns in his side re­mains to be seen — though tea party lead­ers say there’s a crit­i­cal role for them to play in keep­ing the un­pre­dictable Mr. Trump on track.

“These guys are go­ing to the en­forcers,” said Steve Lone­gan, a tea party ac­tivist. “They can help force the Repub­li­can Party to live up to its prom­ises.”

Oth­ers are more skep­ti­cal about how much sway the 2010 tea party dar­lings will have on a Capi­tol Hill many vot­ers con­sider out of touch.

“Mike Lee, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul are go­ing to make some great speeches, but re­mem­ber, these in­di­vid­ual leg­is­la­tors, even the best of them, are op­er­at­ing as a small piece of a large body, and that large body doesn’t re­ally care about the coun­try,” said Mark Meck­ler, pres­i­dent of Cit­i­zens for Self-Gov­er­nance and co­founder of Tea Party Pa­tri­ots.

Mr. Meck­ler said that while Mr. Trump rep­re­sents a break in the White House, Congress is still con­trolled by Repub­li­cans who failed to over­turn any of Pres­i­dent Obama’s agenda.

“This is the same Congress that we had be­fore this elec­tion, with the same steely eyed lead­er­ship that de­funded Oba­macare — oh wait, they didn’t do that. This is the same steely eyed lead­er­ship that pre­vented Obama from fund­ing ex­ec­u­tive [im­mi­gra­tion] amnesty — oh wait, they didn’t do that,” he said. “Ev­ery­body thinks things are go­ing to be so in­cred­i­ble be­cause Trump is go­ing to be in of­fice. I would ar­gue we don’t know.”

Mr. Ru­bio wasn’t sup­posed to be in Washington. When he ran for the pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion, he sig­naled he was done with the Se­nate, say­ing he found the glacial pace of the place frus­trat­ing. But af­ter los­ing to Mr. Trump, and un­der pres­sure from GOP party lead­ers, he had a re­think and jumped back into the race for his seat, cruis­ing to an easy vic­tory for a sec­ond term.

Along the way, how­ever, he shed some of the tea party aura he’d built in 2010, in­clud­ing back­ing a bi­par­ti­san im­mi­gra­tion over­haul bill and sup­port­ing deficit spend­ing to com­bat the Zika virus.

Mr. Ru­bio has sig­naled that he wants to put his im­print on world af­fairs and has warned that he has “se­ri­ous con­cerns” about Mr. Trump’s se­lec­tion of ExxonMo­bil CEO Rex Tiller­son for sec­re­tary of state, who has had a busi­ness re­la­tion­ship with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin.

“Be­ing a ‘friend of Vladimir’ is not an at­tribute I am hop­ing for from a #Sec­re­taryOfS­tate,” Mr. Ru­bio, who sits on the For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee that will han­dle the con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing, said on Twit­ter this month.

Mr. Paul had kept open the op­tion of run­ning again for his Se­nate seat should his pres­i­den­tial bid flame out, which it did af­ter some ac­ri­mo­nious ex­changes with Mr. Trump in the pri­maries.

He has sig­naled that he’ll take on the role of ref­eree in a Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, push­ing the new pres­i­dent to stay true to his cam­paign warn­ings against mil­i­tary ad­ven­tur­ism, even threat­en­ing to join Democrats in fil­i­bus­ter­ing Cabi­net nom­i­nees who go against that mes­sage.

The Ken­tucky Repub­li­can also has made it clear that he will push Congress to hold an up-or-down vote on a new au­tho­riza­tion for wag­ing the war against Is­lamic State — the cur­rent au­tho­riza­tion dates back to the 9/11 at­tacks — and for Mr. Trump to fol­low through on his prom­ise to slice taxes.

“One of the things I liked about Don­ald Trump’s cam­paign was that he ran on a big, bold tax plan, that cut taxes for ev­ery Amer­i­can, and it was NOT rev­enue neu­tral. The gov­ern­ment would get less money and ev­ery Amer­i­can would keep more,” Mr. Paul said in an op-ed on Bre­it­bart.com.

For his part, Mr. Lee spent 90 min­utes this month with Mr. Trump dis­cussing their shared de­sire to re­peal the Af­ford­able Care Act and on leg­is­la­tion to re­duce fed­eral reg­u­la­tions. But they did not broach the topic of Mr. Lee serv­ing on the U.S. Supreme Court — a pos­si­bil­ity some con­ser­va­tives are lob­by­ing for.

Tea party lead­ers said, in the best sce­nario, their three cham­pi­ons from the 2010 elec­tion will find ways to work to­gether with their new party leader to cut the size of gov­ern­ment.

“We gave Repub­li­cans the House in 2010 and Se­nate in 2014, and now they have the White House, so there is re­ally no ex­cuse not to start im­pos­ing some fis­cal san­ity on Amer­ica,” said Jud­son Phillips, founder of Tea Party Na­tion. “I see Rand Paul, Mike Lee and Marco Ru­bio not nec­es­sar­ily be­ing a check, but be­ing part­ners with Don­ald Trump.”


Sen. Marco Ru­bio (left) and Sen. Rand Paul were op­po­nents of Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump for the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion, but with the New York bil­lion­aire now headed to the White House, the tea party dar­lings will need to ad­just when Mr. Trump takes of­fice.

Sen. Mike Lee, a lib­er­tar­ian-lead­ing Repub­li­can, was at odds with Don­ald Trump dur­ing the cam­paign, but the party hopes they can work to­gether.

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