Sen. Mike Johanns says time will tell whether the Tea Party has a future in Washington.
Public opinion polls indicate the image of the Tea Party took a big hit after the federal government shutdown and the debt ceiling fight.
Johanns, a Republican who criticized the strategy of the Tea Party during the dispute, says he’s not sure what the future holds for the Tea Party.
“I don’t know, you know,” Johanns answers when asked about the Tea Party. “There are highs and lows in everything and, obviously, this is a pretty low point for those people.”
Johanns declined to name the Tea Party or any particular members of Congress during the two-week plus partial shutdown of the federal government, but criticized the strategy used by some during the fiscal fight.
Republicans with ties to the Tea Party sought to strip funding from the federal health care law as a concession to pass a federal government funding measure and raise the debt ceiling. President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats refused to negotiate. Eventually, funding won approval and the debt ceiling was raised without any concessions.
Johanns stated afterward that Congress lost focus and should have sought spending concessions rather than pursue a strategy that could never have overcome majority Democrats in the Senate, let alone overcome a sure presidential veto.
But, even though Johanns has been critical of the strategy used by the Tea Party, he applauds their effort.
“I want people engaged. I want them connected,” Johanns says, adding that when he arrived in Washington five years ago members of Congress insisted more money was needed to stimulate the economy and everyone seemed to be pushing additional spending.
“Well, finally people rose up and said you’re bankrupting our country and you’re leaving a terrible legacy for our children and I applaud them for that,” Johanns says.
Johanns says Tea Party members shouldn’t get too down about negative public opinion polls.
“Things ebb and flow and what I would encourage people is, you continue to stay involved,” Johanns says. “That doesn’t mean you have to agree with me all the time. In fact, it’s better if you don’t. I like to be challenged on my ideas. I just think the country benefits when people are engaged.”
AUDIO: Sen. Mike Johanns discusses the future of the Tea Party. [1:30]