@NCCapitol

@NCCapitol

Ellmers on debt, gridlock, Tea Party

Posted August 9, 2011 8:15 p.m. EDT
Updated August 9, 2011 8:21 p.m. EDT

Is NC-2 Congresswoman Renee Ellmers distancing herself from the Tea Party?

Ellmers is a first-term Republican whose upset of long-time Democrat incumbent Bob Etheridge was lauded in 2010 as a Tea Party success story, though she didn't call herself a Tea Party candidate. 

But over the past week, she’s taken heat from Tea Party faithful for appearing with House GOP Speaker John Boehner in support of a debt-ceiling compromise that allowed the US to borrow more -- with a few strings attached.

In an exclusive interview with WRAL today, Ellmers acknowledged she’s been criticized for voting for the deal, saying it caused her ‘heartburn.” But she stopped short of calling herself a member of the group that helped send her to Congress. 

“I’m a person who believes in the Tea Party, and was part of the Tea Party at rallies,” she said. “We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the Tea Party.”

“What I am saying,” she added, “is all of the key components to that bill, as imperfect as it was, were my same core conservative values that we agree with, with the Tea Party.”

Debt deal not all bad

“We cut spending greater than the debt ceiling increase,” Ellmers pointed out. “We kept from increasing taxes, which is what the President wanted.”

She says another part of the debt-ceiling deal clears the way for a balanced-budget amendment to be voted on in the House and Senate. “The balanced budget amendment is the key essential piece of this, and we need to now call on the Tea Party to be talking to our members of Congress who might not vote for a balanced budget amendment,” she said.

"We didn’t get all the cuts we wanted," she conceded. "We wanted much more, we know we needed much more. But we can still continue to cut spending. Again, this was never the be-all, end-all, it was never the end game. It was more of a start that we can build from.”

Blasted for compromise

A Gallup poll released today shows only 24% of US voters think Congress in general ought to be re-elected. While negative opinion polls about Congress in general rarely extend to voters' own congressional representatives, it’s worth nothing that that's the lowest approval rating Congress has ever posted since pollsters started keeping score.

Are voters tired of partisan gridlock? Ellmers says yes and no.

“The funny part about that is that a lot of criticism that I’ve gotten is that I’ve compromised too much," she answered. "So what we have is a mindset. We are up against two completely different political philosophies right now, and that’s why there doesn’t seem to be much wiggle room.”

Watch the unedited interview at right.