Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON -- Angry "tea party" patriots who launched a nationwide grassroots rebellion against an intrusive government, punitive taxes and reckless spending are rallying their troops once again. Their target is President Obama's government-run health care plan, but this time their ground forces are larger, their goals more ambitious, and their potential political impact is much greater.

These tea-party brigades have been a driving force behind the packed congressional town-hall phenomena that have stunned the Democrats, put the Obama administration on the defensive, and sent its health care reform polls into a nose dive.

This is the citizen-led movement that swept the country earlier this year in retaliation to the massive bailout and big spending bills coming out of the Democratic Congress. The seemingly spontaneous turnout at protest rallies throughout the nation has spawned an army of local groups and organizations that are now gearing up to make their voices heard in the battle over the biggest spending bill ever: creation of a new federally run entitlement that will expand the size and cost of government by trillions of dollars and dozens of bureaucracies.

Tea-party activists, made up of conservatives, libertarians, independents and ordinary citizens concerned about their country's direction, have shunned suggestions to merge themselves into larger organizations, preferring to make their impact felt locally. And they have effectively done that in this month's town-hall gatherings that have seized the White House's attention and may, in the end, defeat or significantly modify the health care bills now pending in Congress.

But now a Sacramento, Calif.-based group known as Our Country Deserves Better is gearing up to momentarily connect some of these disparate groups with an ambitious Tea Party Express caravan that will hold 35 rallies in cities and towns from California to Maine.

It will end with a rally in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 12 when Congress is expected to be moving health care legislation through the House and Senate -- a date when many tea-party groups had planned to gather here anyway. Their focus: health care legislation that they fear will further rob them of their freedoms and cripple the economy.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.