Now that U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann has gained approval for a Tea Party Caucus in the House, the next question is who will join the group.
The Minnesota Republican tweeted Monday that her proposal for the caucus received official sanction from the House Administration Committee, despite earlier speculation that Democratic antipathy to tea partyers could doom the request.
Committee Chairman Robert Brady, a Pennsylvania Democrat, told Bachmann in a July 16 letter that her caucus could not use funds to pursue a legislative agenda, according to The Hill.
Bachmann, who will chair the caucus, proposed the group without consulting the GOP leadership.
“It was something we were doing on our own,” Bachmann spokesman Dave Dziok told Politico. “Ultimately, we just pulled the trigger.”
Until now, Republican members of Congress, including House Minority Leader John Boehner, had participated in tea party rallies or declared their support without formally affiliating with the movement. But the caucus’ formation could change that.
“While the other side is busy mocking the tea party movement, we’re going to listen to them, we’re going to walk amongst them, we’re going to stand with them,” Boehner said last winter at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
Although Boehner also has spoken at tea party rallies in several states, he isn’t expected to join the caucus.
“As a personal policy, Boehner is not a member of any caucus other than the House Republican Conference,” Boehner spokesman Kevin Smith told The Hill.
Minority Whip Eric Cantor has yet to indicate whether he will join, and his office declined to answer press questions regarding his intentions.
House Republican Conference chairman Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., responded with an enthusiastic “you betcha” when asked whether he would join the caucus.
The Tea Party Caucus joins the countless interest-based caucuses in the House, such as the Sportsmen’s Caucus and the Black Caucus.
“I think caucuses represent an opportunity for members to get together and to share ideas,” Pence told Politico, “and my hope is this Tea Party Caucus would do the same and also would be an avenue for bringing some of the energy and enthusiasm, and the focus I’ve seen from the national march on Washington, where I spoke on 9/12, [and] traveling around Indiana and a little around the country, deeper into the well of Congress.”
The caucus will meet for the first time Wednesday, and Bachmann spokesman Dziok told Politico that its first goal will be to find members who hew to tea party principles.
Congressional staffers say the conservative Republican Study Committee could provide a pool of potential Tea Party Caucus members because of similar issue interests.
Bachmann envisions the caucus as bipartisan, but Idaho Rep. Walt Minnick, a Democratic tea party supporter, has yet to say whether he will join.
House Republicans in tough races are weighing the pros and cons of joining the caucus. Many political observers expect the grass-roots conservative tea party movement to wield considerable clout in the midterms.
A Politico poll released Monday found that nearly a quarter of Americans believe the tea party will become a viable third party in American politics, largely because of Bachmann’s and Sarah Palin’s star power.
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