TEA PARTIERS CAN WIN A PRIMARY, BUT CAN THEY STAND ON PRINCIPLE?…. Congressional Republicans are currently working on a plan to permanently extend Bush-era tax rates, at a cost of $4 trillion over the next decade. How would the GOP pay for these cuts? It wouldn’t — every penny would just get thrown onto the national debt for future generations to worry about.

OK, so the Republican Party’s talk about fiscal responsibility is obviously a transparent sham. But what about the Tea Partiers? Benjy Sarlin had this Daily Beast item yesterday. (via TS)

If the GOP retakes Congress and doesn’t immediately take on the Tea Partiers’ top issue, the national debt, they face a backlash that could cost them the support of the movement — whose expectations are sky high.

Now, the point of the Sarlin piece was about whether Republican lawmakers would follow through on meeting right-wing activists’ demands, but let’s focus in on a slightly different point — the notion that the national debt is the so-called movement’s “top issue.”

It’s hard to say with any confidence — different zealots get involved for different reasons — but if that’s true, the Republican tax plan offers Tea Partiers with a great opportunity.

Indeed, it’s something of a challenge of their credibility and principles. When will we see a Tea Party organization, any Tea Party organization, publicly denounce the Republican tax plan as irresponsible and unaffordable? The GOP has no qualms about adding $4 trillion to the debt over the next 10 years. Surely the folks who consider the debt their “top issue” should have something to say about this, right?

Taking this one step further, the plain truth is that the entire Obama agenda — every proposal that has passed or even been talked about — costs far less than the Republican tax plan. And that’s an agenda that forced these far-right activists into the streets to scream bloody murder.

So, what’s it going to be, debt-obsessed Tea Partiers? Are you on board with a $4 trillion package that isn’t paid for, or are you ready to “refudiate” it?

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.