The 35 Howard County Republicans that bussed to Washington on March 24 did not let the rainy, dreary weather wash out their message.
They are fed up with the Democratic leadership in Washington; they disagree with President Barack Obama's policies, particularly his controversial health care law that passed Congress two years ago; and they hope 2012 will be the year Republicans take control of the White House and the Senate.
"It's not just ObamaCare that people are concerned about, but that was just the major defining piece of legislation that spurred people to action," Ellicott City resident Ken Stephenson said after the group spent three hours in Washington at the Tea Party Patriot's "Road to Repeal" rally. "People see their futures are not looking good."
The rally featured several speakers, including former presidential candidate Herman Cain, who discussed the need to repeal "ObamaCare," the term critics use for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that Congress passed two years ago.
"We want our freedom back; that's what this is about," Cain said. "It's the freedom to choose our own doctors, freedom to choose our own health providers, freedom to choose our own treatment, freedom to choose our own health insurance plan."
The event was held just one day after the two-year anniversary of Obama signing the health care bill into law. The rally kicked off a week of Tea Party protests urging repeal of the law, as theU.S. Supreme CourtMonday begins three days of hearing oral arguments regarding its constitutionality.
"The current court case really is much bigger than ObamaCare," said Ellicott City resident Ken Aldrich.
Saturday's event was also much bigger than the Howard County Republicans' distaste for the health care law.
For some on the bus, it was just one of many trips they had taken to Washington over the past few years to stand up for their conservative beliefs. For others, it was the first time they were traveling to the Capitol to make their voices heard.
But for all, it was fun, exciting and encouraging, they said on the ride home. And as several also pointed out, the rally was peaceful.
While expressing their feelings by applauding and cheering as each speaker said things they agreed with, the Howard County Republicans were largely subdued.
A handful, however, did garner a lot of attention, particularly from people stopping to take photographs, with a sign they held that read: "Liberals — Who the HELL do you think you are?"
The sign, like many carried by attendees at the rally, took aim at more than Obama's health care law. It attacked what some conservatives see as continued missteps by the Democratic leadership in Washington and screamed for the need to have Republicans regain power in the Capitol.
"This is the most important election of our lifetime," Columbia resident Jackie Duncan said after the rally. " If we do not get ObamaCare repealed, we are going to be in big, big trouble."
Chick Chickanis, of Ellicott City, called his experience at the rally "humbling" and "patriotic," and said what he enjoyed most was meeting "really great Americans from all walks of life."
However, the theme of the day was not lost on him.
"If we don't repeal ObamaCare, we're doomed," Chickanis said.
The main part of the law that Chickanis and many opponents take issue with is the "individual mandate" that every American purchase health insurance, or pay a fine.
Chickanis said health insurance should stay in the private sector and the market for it should become more competitive.
"Like we buy car insurance, we should be able to buy health insurance," he said.
Woodbine resident and District 7 Congressional candidate Frank Mirabile said the health care law contradicts the concepts of the American Dream and true liberty.
"If the government is the rule maker, the provider and the enforcer, how do you get any type of justice about a wrongdoing?" he asked.