And that may be only the first round of spending.
“Everything about this is deeply concerning,” said Jenny Beth Martin, a co-founder of one of the first Tea Party organizations, the Tea Party Patriots. “There are going to be so many unintended consequences from the month of March 2020. It will be years before we sort out what just happened.”
Yet, for Tea Party supporters like Ms. Martin, the situation is complicated. For years, they excoriated big government, helping to elect a new class of lawmakers determined to slash spending.
That is, until Mr. Trump took office.
Mr. Trump’s incoming chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and his departing acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, both tied their congressional careers to the Tea Party movement. Now, Mr. Mulvaney, Mr. Meadows and other Tea Party politicians are top supporters of the administration — and of the record-breaking level of spending pushed by the White House, even before the coronavirus crisis.
All have been cautious not to use the B-word (bailout) or even the S-word (stimulus) when it comes to describing the economic stabilization package.
Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, a group that helped fund and organize Tea Party activists, drew a firm distinction between the 2008 bailout and today’s package.
“This is very different than in 2008-2009, which was an abject cronyistic bailout,” said Mr. Phillips, who said he had discussed the package on town-hall-style events conducted via telephone with thousands of his group’s supporters. “The American public gets that this is a very different situation. It affects almost everyone.”
That position may be hard to maintain if the money becomes, as critics fear, a “slush fund” for big corporations. Senate Democrats successfully maneuvered to include more oversight and transparency in the legislation, but how the Treasury Department handles the distribution of the funds will be closely watched, particularly as average Americans struggle to survive the crisis.