At a Capitol Hill news conference Tuesday morning on the failure of the debt supercommittee, leaders of several conservative groups focused their message on urging Republicans not to consider any tax increases as part of a broader debt-reduction plan.
But then one reporter asked the seven leaders what they thought of the Occupy Wall Street movement, several dozen members of which are arriving in Washington Tuesday after a two-week trek from Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park.
The response from Americans for Prosperity President Tim Phillips, whose group’s conference in Washington earlier this month was met with unruly demonstrations by Occupy protesters:
“I think the Occupy Wall Street movement is doing us, candidly, a favor. It’s good for the American people to have a crystal-clear choice between competing visions. That’s a good thing. And when you see not just the policy proposals – of raising taxes and breaking our country, bankrupting our country, the same old tax-and-spend, the same class warfare and envy and hatred – the American people are rejecting that.”
“And when you see the manner in which they’re already breaking the law – violence at their events, violence at the Americans for Prosperity event just a few weeks ago that the Washington, D.C., police confirmed occurred – they’re doing us a favor. It’s a good thing to have a tea party movement that’s non-violent, that is broad-based, literally millions upon millions upon millions of Americans acting. And you have the opposite of that with this group.”
The comments by Phillips and other conservative leaders marked the latest move in the fight to politically define the Occupy Wall Street movement – a battle about which congressional leaders have shown increasing ambivalence.
Democratic leaders such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) have praised the movement, but recent reports of attacks and arrests at the Occupy protests have given some Democrats pause.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) in a speech last month criticized the protests as “a growing mob.” He later retreated from the comment and told reporters he believed the protesters are “justifiably frustrated.”
In recent weeks, the Occupy activists have begun to take their message out on the campaign trail, protesting President Obama in New Hampshire on Tuesday afternoon as well as several Republican presidential hopefuls at campaign events earlier this month.
While leaders on Capitol Hill have been of two minds on Occupy Wall Street, activists in both parties have been less reserved in their efforts to characterize the movement.
Some of the conservative leaders at Tuesday’s event mocked the Occupy protesters, arguing that they could best help the economy by working and paying taxes.
“They should get jobs and they would increase the tax base of America,” ForAmerica President Brent Bozell said.
Citizens United President David Bossie called the Occupy movement “an organized effort on the left” that is “not going to sleep until they’ve won.” He also took issue with those who would liken the Occupy protesters to the conservative tea party movement.
“I get offended when the members of the tea party -- who came out organically, just basically out of the woodwork over the last couple of years, and took to the streets and organized in their local communities and came together to fight for hope, growth and opportunity for all Americans -- that they get put into the same category or compared to this Occupy Wall Street socialist movement, that they want to destroy America,” Bossie said.
He added: “These people – you know, I agree with Brent – I wish they would all wake up one day and get a job because that’s one way that they could actually change America. They could actually increase our tax base by paying taxes instead of living off all of us in this room and all of you watching on TV.”