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Tea Party Won't Let Congress Forget Obamacare Issues


It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Renee Montagne. Congress did not expect to spend September debating Syria. Many Republicans, instead, were planning battles over the budget and over the healthcare law that's about to take affect. Tea Party activists are going ahead with meetings on their issues. One event comes in Washington D.C. today. NPR's Don Gonyea has been talking with activists.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Since Labor Day, the Tea Party Patriots - one of the movement's first and largest national organizations - has been holding informational sessions around the country to tell supporters to stay active, to keep fighting against the coming of Obamacare. Yesterday they were in a hotel meeting room just outside Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and no matter how much Syria dominates on cable TV, here the message discipline was different. Here's a sampling.

DON REIMER: Shout it from the rooftops. Delay Obamacare, defund Obamacare.

LISA NONCOLLAS: Unfortunately the American people are left on the hook to live with Obamacare.

ROB BOYSEN: The time is now. We either stop this law today, tomorrow, or we will not stop it at all.

GONYEA: That last voice was that of 63 year old Rob Boysen who's a leader of the Philadelphia Tea Party Patriots. I asked him if he's worried about that message getting through in midst of the Syria crisis. Boysen calls it frustrating.

BOYSEN: Yes. Very frustrating.

GONYEA: Boysen is opposed to military action in Syria. He did support the Iraq war, at least initially he says. He adds that the U.S. had strategic interests there, interests he doesn't see in Syria. And Boysen doesn't see a commander in chief in the White House, either.

BOYSEN: There is no upside to going into Syria.

GONYEA: How much is that is not trusting President Obama, who you don't trust on other issues?

BOYSEN: I don't trust President - to be honest, I don't think President Obama could lead a Girl Scout troop on an egg hunt. And I don't trust him with our U.S. military.

GONYEA: Also in Harrisburg, yesterday, was 59 year old Tom Remsnyder. He's a retired government worker and a military veteran. Remsnyder says the president should have acted on the situation in Syria a year ago. Waiting till now has only made it worse and more difficult to deal with.

TOM REMSNYDER: Had it been acted upon then, we probably would have had a more coalition going in. As of now we have hardly anybody that wants to go in with us.

GONYEA: Remsnyder does not support taking military action now, but insists it's not fair to say he's simply opposed to anything the president is in favor of. Jenny Beth Martin is one of the founders of the Tea Party Patriots national organization. She will be at the event on the west lawn of the Capitol today and she was the lead speaker in Harrisburg yesterday.

Neither she nor the organization has taken an official stand on Syria. She says they've got they're hands full dealing with domestic issues and battling to shrink the size of government. But she says Syria should not distract from the issues her group cares most about.

JENNY BETH MARTIN: Congress is going to have to focus on more than one thing. We understand that. We're not discounting what's going on in Syria. We're saying pay attention to Syria and pay attention to the fact that our government has to be funded on October 1st.

GONYEA: And, she says, part of any deal to fund the government should be defunding Obamacare. They've got a steep climb. Not just because of Syria but because too many Republicans in Congress remain unconvinced that a budget showdown, even including a government shutdown, will keep Obamacare from happening. Don Gonyea, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.