Pure candy for political junkies. Not only will it be fascinating to see who does — and doesn’t — want to join, but Bachmann et al. may have to make some tough decisions on whether a given applicant is “pure” enough to be admitted. Or maybe she’ll simply decide that anyone who wants to be in it can be in it. In that case, think it’ll go over well with grassroots conservatives when some House RINOs in red districts inevitably stampede to join so that they can brand themselves with the “tea party” label ahead of the midterms?
Another question: Will any Democrats make the cut? Remember, the Tea Party Express endorsed Walt Minnick.
Bachmann tweeted on Thursday: “Just got word that the Committee on House Administration officially approved the House Tea Party Caucus.” Kyle Anderson, a spokesman for the panel, confirmed that it approved the creation of the group.
In her letter last week, Bachmann spoke of the group’s affinity for small government.
“As Members of Congress, we have an obligation to represent the views of our constituents, and this Caucus would do nothing more than promote the timeless principles of our founding, principles that all Members of Congress have sworn to uphold,” he said.
The Democrats have had a lefty caucus in the House for years; you might remember them for their many pathetic empty threats regarding a public option during the ObamaCare debate, which of course they ended up caving on when crunch time came. That’ll be the first test for the Tea Party Caucus — standing on principle if/when the GOP retakes the House and Boehner needs their votes on a bill that’s more centrist than they might prefer. The other obvious challenge will be dealing with whatever the media’s tea-party outrage du jour is. Every time some idiot is spotted at a rally with an offensive sign, Bachmann, Pence, and the rest of the caucus will be asked to denounce it, not because anyone seriously questions whether they will but merely as a pretext to link them to the offense however obliquely. I wonder how many members will eventually decide it’s not worth the headache, especially in light of the infighting now going on between the Tea Party Federation and Tea Party Express. Remember, no less than Dick Armey advised GOP candidates last month that it might be time to start inching away from the tea-party brand.
Incidentally, Rand Paul’s planning a similar Tea Party Caucus for the Senate if/when he’s elected. Says pork-loving lobbyist Trent Lott, bring it on:
Paul, who beat GOP establishment favorite Trey Grayson in Kentucky’s primary, told the National Review that he would seek to join forces with GOP Sens. Jim DeMint (S.C.) and Tom Coburn (Okla.), “who are unafraid to stand up” and who have blocked numerous bills advanced by both parties deemed by the pair as expanding government.
“If we get another loud voice in there, like Mike Lee from Utah or Sharron Angle from Nevada, there will be a new nucleus” to advocate causes such as term limits, a balanced-budget amendment and “having bills point to where they are enumerated in the Constitution,” Paul said in the interview.
Former Senate majority leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), now a D.C. lobbyist, warned that a robust bloc of rabble-rousers spells further Senate dysfunction. “We don’t need a lot of Jim DeMint disciples,” Lott said in an interview. “As soon as they get here, we need to co-opt them.”
But Lott said he’s not expecting a tea-party sweep. “I still have faith in the visceral judgment of the American people,” he said.
The Club for Growth replies: “Corporate lobbyist Trent Lott is apparently afraid Congress’s incoming freshman class will put an end to the earmarks, handouts, and bailouts that make him rich.” Heh. Exit question one: Given how thoroughly coopted the “Contract With America” class of Republicans became, why should we doubt that Lott’s ilk will succeed? Exit question two: Since we’re now getting a Republican analog to the Congressional Progressive Caucus, will we ultimately get an analog to the Blue Dogs too? Some sort of “Red Dog” bloc, maybe, that includes Collins, Snowe, Scott Brown, etc.? I think they’d be nuts to do that anytime soon with tea-party fee-vah still going strong among the base, but remember, it’s the Blue Dogs who hold the balance of power among the Democratic majority. The Red Dogs would be in the same position if/when the GOP retakes the Senate, and don’t think they don’t know it. Maybe in 2012 or 2014, after a few more centrists (e.g., Mike Castle) land in the Senate? Maverick could lead them!