Liberals, tea partyers in suburbs protest debt ceiling moves

Updated 7/27/2011 5:49 AM
  • State of the national debt

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In his Monday evening prime-time speech, President Barack Obama decried the "partisan three-ring circus" in Washington that has so far failed to reach a compromise on raising the debt ceiling with days to go before a potential government default.

He may have inadvertently created another circus in the suburbs Tuesday, with suburban congressional offices serving as the sites of dueling rallies of area residents hoping for very different solutions, as Senate Democrats and House Republicans are pushing rival plans.

Streaming into GOP Chief Deputy Whip Peter Roskam's Bloomingdale office at noon were a group of nearly 60 mainly middle-aged protesters, organized by liberal public policy advocacy group, who came to leave handwritten notes supporting the president's call for a "balanced approach" to budgeting to avert a government default and reduce federal deficits.

Still, others argued that severe cuts are the only way for the government to get back on firmer financial footing.

On the sidewalk outside Roskam's office, members of several local tea party groups paced back and forth with "Don't Tread on Me" signs and placards, chanting "cut, cap and balance now," in support of a plan requiring a constitutional balanced-budget amendment.

That plan, which threatens to stymie a GOP solution, is favored by some of the more conservative members of the House GOP, who say House Speaker John Boehner's plan doesn't cut spending enough.

Carol Davis, group coordinator of the West Suburban Patriots, which bills itself as an independent tea party group, said she's tired of the "sky's falling" attitude she hears from many Democrats.

"Only substantive change will put us back on secure footing," she said.

Meanwhile, at the Geneva office of 14th District Congressman Randy Hultgren, a similar scene played itself out as about 50 people picketed, expressing worries that Hultgren's stance on raising the federal debt ceiling would hurt Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries.

Protesters were let into Hultgren's office eight at a time to fill out a form registering their comments.

In the parking lot the protesters carried signs with slogans such as "How Dare You Hold a Gun to Your Country" and "Don't Destroy Medicare and Social Security."

"I'm OK with a compromise, but you don't solve a budget on the backs of the people," said St. Charles resident Bonnie Helm, a state corrections department retiree.

Roskam and Hultgren remain in Washington as leaders attempt to hammer out a deal. Still, protesters on both sides of the issue expressed disgust with the underlying political motivations that prevent Democrats and Republicans from reaching a deal.

"It's smoke and mirrors," Davis said.

Jackie McGrath of Bloomingdale said she planned to leave a message telling Roskam that by failing to come to a compromise, lawmakers are part of the problem.

"I'm tired of the posturing," she said.

So was John Olson of Glendale Heights, who expressed concerns lawmakers aren't paying attention to their constituents.

"Who elected these people?" he said, looking around at the crowd outside Roskam's office.

• Daily Herald staff writer Susan Sarkauskas contributed to this report.