Rep. Yoho urges tea party to keep fighting
Published: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at 7:24 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at 7:24 p.m.
OCALA — Gainesville congressman Ted Yoho on Wednesday urged the tea party faithful to remain vigilant against the onslaught of liberal policies emanating from Washington, saying their presence has been — and continues to be — felt in the nation's capital.
Only through frequent reminders to elected leaders — within the halls of Congress as well as the meeting chambers of city councils and school boards — about their constitutional duties would the country be preserved from a future with an even bigger, more meddlesome government, the Republican from Alachua County said at a town hall meeting in Ocala.
And Yoho, who on the strength of tea party support ousted 24-year incumbent GOP Congressman Cliff Stearns in last year's Republican primary, pledged to help tea party members stay motivated.
"The tea party is invaluable. You guys changed the playing field," Yoho said in response to an audience member's question.
"How do you keep it active? You just keep having meetings. You keep inviting people. Try to relate to people. Don't be the fringe right or the fringe left. Be Americans. Be passionate about your country. There is nothing wrong with passion," he said.
In Washington, Yoho said, the tea party's influence is strong. "They are very cognizant of it, and my goal is to make sure they stay aware of that."
Yoho, whose sprawling district covers much of Alachua County and part of Marion County, spoke to a couple hundred people gathered at the Berean Baptist Church in Ocala, headquarters of the local tea party organization.
In a way, Yoho was returning to his roots. Butch Verrando, a leader of the group, said Yoho had been a regular at their meetings almost since it formed four years ago.
During a visit that ran just over an hour, Yoho on Wednesday fielded questions on an array of subjects — from current hot-button topics like gun control and the murders of U.S. diplomats at Benghazi to the more sublime, like the state of the Fair Tax and auditing the Federal Reserve.
Yoho offered some strong comments in response to the crowd's interest in Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's testimony last week on the Benghazi slayings.
The freshman lawmaker expressed frustration that his colleagues, including some Republicans, did not want to dig deeper into the Obama administration's response to the attacks in Libya last September.
Yoho, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he felt dissatisfied by Clinton's acceptance of responsibility, believed too many questions went unanswered and thought she or other high-ranking officials were not being held sufficiently accountable.
Yoho said he was particularly upset that Clinton had said it did not matter whether the Americans were slain in a terrorist attack or in a protest of an anti-Islam movie that turned violent.
"Heck yeah, it matters," Yoho said, saying Clinton's response affected the government's credibility.
"There were four men that are never coming home to see their families," Yoho added, growing visibly emotional, "to see spouses, to see brothers, to see sisters, to see kids because of mismanagement — and you say it (the nature of the protest) doesn't matter."
Yoho noted that he was glad Clinton was stepping down as the nation's chief diplomat, and said he wants to go further when Clinton returns for additional hearings on the matter.
Based on a review of the Benghazi attack, Yoho said, the State Department could have done more to protect the diplomats.
"I want somebody to be responsible for this. I want somebody to pay for this. And we need to have that message," Yoho said. "My goal is bringing it out to the American people (and) sell that message to where that person never seeks elected office again."
Yoho also reaffirmed his staunch support for the Second Amendment, a popular issue with the audience, saying reducing gun violence should focus on the "irresponsible" and makers of violent movies and video games.
"I hope you keep your gun, and I'll do everything I can to make sure you do," he said.
Though Yoho, as a candidate, was unrelenting in his condemnation of runaway federal spending, he told the tea party activists that the "most important" issue facing the country was "redefining who we are."
By that he meant the country needed to somehow overcome its polarization and find an issue to unite behind.
Yet Yoho did address spending and the size of government. He said he favored auditing the Federal Reserve, citing Thomas Jefferson's line that powerful, unwatched bankers were "more dangerous" to the nation's interests than standing armies.
Yoho also explained his recent vote against the Hurricane Sandy relief bill, suggesting that some northeastern lawmakers, including Republicans, were "more worried about getting re-elected than doing what's right."
He also lamented that the Fair Tax, the proposed national sales tax that would replace most federal taxes, which Yoho supports, was going nowhere and expressed concern about where President Barack Obama's plans, including the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, were taking the country.
"I've one branch of our government running 100 miles an hour toward socialism and I've got the conservative side over here like Fred and Barney in the Flintstone mobile with their feet out saying ‘Whoa,'?" Yoho said.
Yoho also suggested Republicans would soon offer new messaging to win back voters, and that sticking to fiscal issues was the way to go.
"People on both sides, they just don't want to be pushed in a certain direction. … We'll never win the argument on social issues, and we need to change on how we message that," Yoho said.
Contact Bill Thompson at 867-4117.
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