To the chagrin of a York County Republican mainstay, the local arm of the tea party is vowing to fight harder amid disappointment with a congressional agreement to reopen the federal government and raise the debt ceiling.
York 912 Patriots spokeswoman Beth Roberts said she was hoping House Republicans would unite around the conservative Republicans who voted against raising the debt limit, including Rep. Scott Perry, R-York County, a former member of the Patriots.
But instead, she said, the Republicans were a disappointment, allowing themselves to be "punked" into contributing to the nation's debt problem.
The national debate has publicly aired the rift between the conservative faction and other Republicans, exploring the conservative group's influence and whether it's damaging to the Republican Party.
But Roberts said most of the Republicans in office don't deserve the positions they hold anyway, and most should be replaced with tea party members.
"The tea party is a result of the Republican Party's failure to stand on any principles," she said. "The Republican Party damaged itself, and the tea party is going to rescue it. It's going to bring it
back from the ashes."
She said the tea party needs to try harder, and her group will encourage more tea party candidates to run against moderate Republicans. The organization's taxing classification, however, makes it illegal for the group to endorse or monetarily support any candidates.
Not pure tea: While they identify as tea partiers, the York 912 Patriots were formed as a part of the 912 Project, a group created by former Fox News personality Glenn Beck.
York County Republican Committee chair Bob Wilson said the 912 Patriots aren't a true tea party group.
"What they are is a group of individuals who help to sell books and online subscriptions," he said. "According to them, they're not a political group. They are an educational group. Teaching people to dig holes in the ground for the impending government collapse or zombie apocalypse, whichever comes first, is not contributing anything positive to the political spectrum."
Wilson said he wants to work with true tea party groups, uniting the conservatives and moderates in the party so they can work together to defeat liberal Democrats. But that's not what members of the 912 want, he said.
"To defeat my own party, I'm sorry, but I'm unwilling to work with you," he said.
Though a handful of conservative self-identifying tea partiers have run against incumbent Republicans, they haven't defeated any, Wilson said.
But Roberts said the local tea party is strong.
"I don't believe the tea party is in such dire straits that the press claims they're in," she said. "Everyone I talk to seems to feel the same way I do, that the Republican party has compromised itself out of relevance."
She said the 912 group's membership has been steady at about 900, down from a high of 1,000.
Wilson said his membership includes the more than 130,000 registered Republicans in York County, and he's not worried about cohesion in the local party.
"They're a minority of individuals," he said. "The only time they have a crowd is when an elected official shows up, because people want to see the elected official. Their numbers are not as large as they seem."
The big picture: Wilson said he supports Perry in his "no" vote, saying Perry was voting to end uncontrollable spending and the nation needs to take action about its debt "at some point."
Roberts, a 46-year-old former charter school teacher who lives in Dover Township, said she finally feels like she has "a dog in the fight."
"I never felt like I had a representative in Congress with (Perry's Republican predecessor) Todd Platts, but I do feel like I have someone speaking for me now," she said.
And in the conservative 4th Congressional District, Perry is unlikely to face constituent reprisal for voting against the agreement to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling, said political analyst G. Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College.
"It may have been politically worse for him if he had voted for it," Madonna said.
Madonna said he believes the government shutdown and its conclusion have been damaging to both the Republican Party and the tea party, but he thinks the tea party is just getting started.
It's the first time the tea party stood up to the prevailing powers in Washington, and "I don't get any sense that the tea party is acknowledging defeat here," he said.
But on a local level, the tea party could have little effect other than pushing moderates further to the right for primaries, he said.