Is the Tea Party already 'selling out' on pork?

As a war over earmarks heats up, Tea Partier Rand Paul seems to be softening his opposition. Is the Tea Party already being co-opted by mainstream Republicans?

Florida Senator-elect Marco Rubio may be hailed as a Tea Party success story but the conservative labels himself "first and foremost as a Republican."
(Image credit: Corbis)

Republicans are engaged in a civil war over pork, with Tea Party star Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) calling for a total ban on earmarks, and GOP leaders Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) balking. Surprisingly, it isn't clear which faction incoming Tea Party Republicans will side with. Two of the grassroots movement's biggest icons, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio, have distanced themselves from the Tea Party since winning their Senate seats last week, and Paul told The Wall Street Journal he "will advocate for Kentucky's interests." Has the Tea Party insurgency already been tamed by the GOP? (Watch an MSNBC discussion about working with the Tea Party)

How quickly they change: Leading up to the election, Paul was adamant about killing pork-barrel spending, says Veronique de Rugy in National Review. So I'm taken aback by how quickly he's "selling out." Even if you look at his comments charitably, he's still promising to send federal money back home "to buy state and local goodies," which is hardly "in line with my dream of going back to true fiscal federalism."

"Is Rand Paul already selling out?"

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Why is anyone surprised? So the GOP is co-opting the Tea Partiers, not vice versa, says David Graham in Newsweek. No shock: Politicians almost always "take less radical viewpoints once in office" — that's "not selling out, it's sensible." But Paul's "willingness to waffle" or Rubio's run to the center won't really matter in the earmarks debate. GOP leaders have set the agenda, and they're "moving quickly to marginalize Tea Partiers."

"Watering down the Tea"

It's not too late to repent: As both McConnell and Paul suggest, banning earmarks is "mainly a symbolic measure," says Allahpundit in Hot Air. But the symbol is the "porky stench" of what's wrong with Washington, and banning it, even symbolically, is "fantastic retail politics." If Republicans are serious about their "learning our lesson" humble pie, GOP leaders will let the Tea Party and "DeMint win this one."

"McConnell quietly campaigning against DeMint's earmark ban"

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