The Tea Party Caucus is back in action, convening its first meeting in some time on Thursday evening with its best turnout to date.
Roughly 20 House GOP members and dozens of staffers from nearly 40 congressional offices were in attendance, Politico
The closed-door meeting, organized by TheTeaParty.net, also included representatives from organizations including the Tea Party Express and U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
“We don’t even get this kind of quorum for committee meetings,” Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, the caucus chairwoman, reportedly joked.
Republican Reps. Paul Broun and Tom Price of Georgia, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Trent Franks of Arizona, and Steve King of Iowa were among the leading conservatives who attended. Conservative radio talk show host Rusty Humphries was also there.
“I thought it was the energy we had when we first started things [a few years ago],” Gohmert told Politico after the meeting. “The Tea Party beliefs and movement never really went away. It was just that the caucus wasn’t really having meetings.”
The meeting comes at a time when conservatives are increasingly exercising their influence in Congress on issues ranging from Obamacare and immigration to budget matters. As a sign that the Republican Party wants to work with tea party lawmakers, Mike Shields, chief of staff to Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, spoke at the meeting.
There were no senators in attendance, but supporters are hoping to establish a tea party caucus in the Senate. Efforts to engage Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Tim Scott of South Carolina, and Marco Rubio of Florida are ongoing.
“My suspicion is that the next gathering could very well be on the Senate side,” said Niger Innis, chief strategist for TheTeaParty.net.
Broun, who is running for Senate in 2014, said it’s important that the caucus has a presence on the Senate side as well.
“When I’m elected to the U.S. Senate, I’ll be sure to join one if there’s one there, and if there’s not one, I’ll be in the process of making one occur,” he said.
For years, The TeaParty.net focused on the grassroots, but it recently set-up an advocacy arm in the nation's capital to lobby congressional members and increase their influence on Capitol Hill.
“We have been critiquing the Capitol from the outside. Now we have to exert our influence inside the beltway,” said Innis.
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