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South Carolina tea party activist Sunny O’Donovan plans to travel to Washington in January to personally witness the swearing-in of her new congressman, Jeff Duncan, who was elected with the backing of several tea party groups. On that day, O’Donovan will shift from being an enthusiastic supporter to an eager constituent with a long wish list.
“What I’d really like to see is the national Department of Education abolished and some plans for education to be given back to the states,” she said. “But the first thing is to permanently install the Bush tax cuts. . . . And repeal the Obama health care – that was ridiculous.”
Now that the tea party has matured from a protest movement to a player on Capitol Hill, its grass-roots members are trying to make the transition along with it. But interviews and a Washington Post survey make clear that few in the movement agree on a legislative agenda beyond downsizing government. Even in that area, there are many views; some are demanding radical cuts, while others simply want better management of federal funds.
For tea party activists, the range of opinion could complicate the task of harnessing the energy they created in the campaign. And for the GOP, it could make the challenge of managing the new members of their caucus more difficult.