Will the Tea Party Settle for Compromise?

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Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country we bring you the unmissable quotes from political conversations on WNYC. On today's Brian Lehrer ShowMichael Grimm, newly elected Congressman from NY-13, which includes Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn, talks about the new compromise between the Obama administration and Congressional Republicans on the Bush tax cuts.

Since he hasn't taken office yet, Representative-elect Michael Grimm doesn't have to vote on the Bush tax cut compromise. For that, he might be thankful. As he told Brian Lehrer, it's not an ideal situation for anyone in Washington.

It's probably one of the toughest votes those who have recently taken office will have to take. People are going to have to break their promises. The way I look at it, nobody's winning in this situation. I don't want to raise the deficit, I don't want to take money out of Social Security, I don't think that we should be extending Social Security benefits without paying for it.

But despite all those things he doesn't like, Grimm says he would probably still give the compromise a "reluctant yes." When it comes down to it, he says, keeping taxes low for everyone is so important that it's worth some concessions.

At the end of the day, by raising taxes now, I think that would be such a mistake and so detrimental to the overall economy that we just unfortunately have to deal with what we have.

Among the measures that Obama has said Republicans will have to deal with are several tax credits aimed at middle class families. Casting these provisions as a win for Democrats, the president has tried to make the GOP look like it doesn't take the interests of working Americans to heart. Grimm called that a "bait and switch."

Tax credits, tax cuts, stimulating the economy, helping the middle class, nobody's even argued that point at all. Our problem is, we don't support taking money out of Social Security. We don't support extending unemployment benefits without paying for it, and we don't support increasing the deficit. With the tax credits, he's trying to get people to look at a part of something that isn't the real issue.

Grimm and his fellow Tea Party freshmen do have a real issue with their base, though. As disappointed as liberal Democrats are with this compromise, some members of the Tea Party are fuming. After hearing months of promises from their candidates about not adding to the deficit and controlling government spending, the last thing they want to hear is that same former candidate lending their support to a bill that will cost hundreds of billions of dollars. Grimm said that unfortunately, Washington won't allow newly-elected Republicans to be as unrelenting in office as they were on the campaign trail.

There's no question that they want to keep their promises, myself included. The reality is that sometimes you have to play the cards that you're dealt. I don't think it's prudent to say, 'I promised I wouldn't do this, so I'm going to stand on that promise at the cost of massively hurting the economy and hurting the people I represent much more than by compromising to some extent.'

» Listen to the entire conversation on The Brian Lehrer Show.