By Thomas Ferraro
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Supporters of the Tea Party fiscal conservative movement kept pressure on Republican leaders on Thursday not to bend in talks with Democrats over the biggest spending cuts in U.S. history.
"Grow a spine -- no compromise," read a sign held by Helene Kerns of West Virginia at a rally across the street from the Capitol. "That's our message."
Lawmakers have tentatively agreed to make $33 billion in spending cuts through September, but they now must delve into the details to decide which programs to cut.
Talks still have to deal with thorny issues such as a Republican plan to starve funding to implement President Barack Obama's 2010 healthcare reform.
Tea Party activists, who helped to propel the Republican Party to power in the House of Representatives last year, called on Congress to make cuts of at least $100 billion.
"We don't want symbolism just so Congress can pat itself on the back and say, 'Oh, we've cut more than we've ever cut before,'" Jenny Beth Martin, a national coordinator of Tea Party Patriots, one of the movement's biggest groups, told the rally attended by several hundred people.
House Speaker John Boehner has drawn fire from the Tea Party, with members saying he has not pushed for big enough cuts and warning they may challenge him in next year's Republican primary.
"I'm glad that they are engaged in the process," Boehner told reporters. "We are going to fight for all the spending cuts we can get," he said, noting that while his party controls the House, Democrats still hold the Senate and White House.
The possible $33 billion in cuts as part of a compromise would squeeze many domestic agencies, but do little to plug a budget deficit projected to hit $1.4 trillion this year.
A CNN-Opinion Research Corporation poll released this week showed that public support for Tea Party movement has slipped, with nearly half of all respondents saying they do not have a favorable view of it.
"The country doesn't much care for the Tea Party," Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said on Wednesday, complaining it has made it tougher for Republicans to cut a deal.
While the Tea Party does not have a clear 2012 presidential candidate, Republican Representative Michelle Bachmann, chair of the House Tea Party Caucus, has said she may make a run.
Bachmann drew sustained cheers when she told the rally: "Stand firm. Hold us accountable. We love you."
(Editing by Mohammad Zargham)