MANATEE — U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan was generally among friends Saturday afternoon when he dropped by a Tea Party Manatee meeting.
But that didn’t mean he was given a pass on tough questions by the 50 or so people who filled the restaurant area at Mixon Fruit Farms.
It was a Tea Party meeting after all.
Jim Martire asked why Buchanan, R-Sarasota, and his Republican cohorts seem powerless to stop what Martire considers a liberal attack on the country by Democrats and President Barack Obama.
“You guys get your heads handed to you every time you go up against the Democrats,” Martire told Buchanan. “You are unorganized. ... If you go down, there is no check and balance on the Democratic party.”
Buchanan told Martire that because of a Democratic majority in the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi controls what legislation makes it to a vote. The upcoming midterm elections should return control of the chamber to the GOP, he said. The Republicans must pick up 39 seats to regain the majority it lost in 2006.
“I’m optimistic because I think in November, things are going to change,” Buchanan said.
Buchanan agreed to Saturday’s meeting after several requests from Tea Party Manatee. He spent about 50 minutes — 20 minutes longer than scheduled — with the group between hosting a town hall meeting in Sarasota and attending a Republican Party of Manatee County open house.
Buchanan’s call for a constitutional balanced budget amendment and support of Arizona’s immigration law drew nods of assent from Tea Party members. He railed against the expected $1.47 trillion deficit in the current U.S. budget and similar estimate for next year’s budget. He said Obama’s stimulus package created government jobs at the expense of private-sector jobs.
The Republican Party has been slow to embrace the polarizing Tea Party movement — it stresses fiscal responsibility, strict adherence to the U.S. Constitution and limited government — but U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., this week formed a Tea Party Caucus within the party.
“We pretty much agree on everything,” Buchanan told the local Tea Partiers.
But the attendees Saturday were looking for immediate answers.
“We’re the Tea Party; our blood pressure is already through the roof,” member Tom Garland said. “We don’t believe much is going to change.”
Buchanan’s challenger in the District 13 primary, Don Baldauf, a regular at Tea Party events, attended Saturday’s meeting.
He agreed Buchanan offered few solutions to the country’s problems. He said a literal reading of language in the U.S. Constitution in terms of investment regulations and immigration would help fix those issues.
“One thing I’ve seen from a lot of candidates that run for office is, and Vern I think is the same, is that I relate to them as dogs chasing cars. They don’t know what they do with them when the catch them. ... They were asking for solutions, and he gave a lot of puff,” Baldauf said.
Buchanan and Baldauf are scheduled to tape a debate Saturday for later broadcast by Manatee Educational Television.
The primary election is Aug. 24.