Rep. Michele Bachmann stresses that her Tea Party Caucus is not a puppet for the grass-roots conservative movement, nor does it pull the strings for tea partyers nationwide.
Rather, the brand-new House caucus aims to give people a voice, the Minnesota Republican vowed after the caucus’ initial meeting Wednesday.
“We want to have a bigger earphone to listen to the people,” CNN quoted Bachmann as saying after two dozen Republicans kicked off the caucus in a closed-door meeting. “We may possibly meet next week. Our goal is to continue an ongoing dialogue in real time.”
Nearly 30 GOP House members have signed on for the caucus, including Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence, Republican Study Committee Chairman Tom Price; and National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions.
House Minority Leader John Boehner and Minority Whip Eric Cantor notably declined to join, but CNN reported that Bachmann is not treating their absence as a snub.
On the other hand, the GOP leadership was less than pleased with Bachmann’s decision to start the Tea Party Caucus, according to NBC News.
On her own, the congresswoman introduced paperwork with the Democratic leadership to establish the organization late last week and won approval on Monday.
“We are not the mouthpiece of the tea party,” The Washington Post quoted Bachmann as saying at a news conference after the first caucus meeting. “We are not taking the tea party and controlling it from Washington, D.C. I am not the head of the tea party, nor are any of these members of Congress.
“The people are the head of the tea party.”
Tea party leaders view the caucus favorably but dismiss media contentions that caucus membership will determine who gets tea partyer backing.
“I think the voters will look a lot deeper in all of these races than whether people say they belong to this caucus or not,” Mark Meckler, national coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots, tells Newsmax.
Voters should look at how congressional candidates stand on the issues and how they have voted rather than to whether they belong to or would join the Tea Party Caucus, Meckler says.
Meckler scoffs at media suggestions that caucus members would control the movement.
The movement includes “millions and millions of independent Americans who make their decisions for themselves,” he says. “They are not following the lead of Michele Bachmann or any other politician. They are out there educating themselves and getting involved based on principles and performance, and not based on what politician might say.”
The caucus, which Bachmann envisions as being bipartisan, creates a conduit for Congress to communicate with ordinary Americans at a time when the legislative body is more “arrogant” than ever, Meckler says.
Meanwhile, the tea party movement continues to encounter allegations of racism, as House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., restated his contention that it has racist elements Tuesday on the eve of the caucus’ first meeting.
Hoyer told CNN he’s seen “some virulent racist tracks, which I believe are harmful to the public discourse.”
His comments came a week after the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People labeled tea partyers as racists.
Caucus members sought to dispel such allegations at the news conference after the kick-off meeting, The Washington Post reported.
Four black speakers followed Bachmann to showcase the ethnic and racial diversity of tea partyers around the country.
“I am here because we want to tell America we are not terrorists, we are not racists, we are Americans who care about our country and the future of our grandchildren,” the Post quoted Danielle Hollars, a black tea party activist from Woodbridge, Va., as saying.
Similarly, caucus member Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., told reporters: “We have people from all ethnic backgrounds who today are here to talk about how they feel about American constitutional government and lower taxes, and lower spending, so I hope all of you in the media today will carry that message back that the tea party movement is all across the country, there are all races involved and ethnic groups.”
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