Caving in on the immigration and Department of Homeland Security funding issue would finish Republicans' efforts against President Barack Obama's agenda until he leaves office, Rep. Tim Huelskamp, the new chairman of the Tea Party Caucus, says.
"This is the make-or-break for the next two years," Huelskamp told Roll Call
, saying that if his fellow Republicans give in, "I think we're done for two years."
Caving in would give Obama the message that he could implement any part of his agenda, said Huelskamp, adding that his constituents have told him a GOP reversal would be "the last straw."
Huelskamp and other House conservatives are objecting to Senate-backed legislation
that provides $39.7 billion to the Department of Homeland Security without defunding Obama's executive orders on immigration.
But earlier this month, Huelskamp told Newsmax TV
that Republicans already have broken their promises to fight against Obama.
"We had a huge election just a few short months ago. A few weeks after that election, the Republican leadership in the House and Senate caved and gave Obama most of what he wanted until the rest of the year," he said.
The outspoken Kansas Republican, who took over the caucus chairmanship from former Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, has the task of rebuilding a once-powerful coalition, and told Roll Call that it's time for lawmakers to listen to their constituents.
If that happened, he said, Congress would once again focus on spending issues, Common Core, and issues such as the IRS targeting of conservative groups, all "issues that get lost in the translation of Washington."
Huelskamp said he wants the tea party to represent disaffected voters who "don't think [House Speaker] John Boehner's listening," but members aren't getting the message or hearing their constituents.
He said that there are between 24 and 36 members of the caucus currently, and there is value in including more lawmakers, even though he thinks there are many who will join just to boost their conservative credentials.
Meanwhile, Huelskamp said there are "dozens" of lawmakers ready to join the Tea Party Caucus, and that his group hopes Boehner will join.
"I mean, he was tea party before there was a Tea Party Caucus!" Huelskamp said in a parody of one of Boehner's pat lines.
Meanwhile, Huelskamp is not a lawmaker who is known to back down from a fight, and conservative groups like Heritage Action for America and the Club for Growth have given him some of their highest scores. He is also one of just seven Republicans to vote twice in a row for someone other than Boehner to serve as House speaker.
But he says he does not know why there is any controversy over the tea party, or why anybody would feel ashamed of calling themselves a "Tea Party Republican."
"That's how we got a historical majority," he said. "If you want to continue to pound on folks for being conservative or tea party, we win elections about that — even though you have Republicans running away from that."
Instead, lawmakers are risking a great deal by ignoring the tea party, Huelskamp says.
"I mean, people didn't just wake up mad one day," he said. "They've been waking up
mad every day and then they just realized that others were mad too."
Meanwhile, Huelskamp was not elected as chairman, but took over when Bachmann handed off the chairmanship. And now, he wants to steer his caucus to a different focus than the new House Freedom Caucus, to which he also belongs.
"If we're able to drag conservative issues on the agenda here, and conservative solutions," he said. "Success is an agenda-setting function; it really is ... which is a boring thing to say."
© 2021 Newsmax. All rights reserved.