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House Republican leaders have a simple strategy for dealing with Rep. Michele Bachmann: Ignore her.
“We treat her like all Members,” a GOP leadership aide said.
Paying the tea party firebrand any special attention would only heighten her profile, empower her and potentially create schisms within the new House majority, Republican aides said.
Republican leaders might have reason to try to manage the conservative Minnesota Republican more directly, however. Bachmann hasn’t been quiet in the weeks since the 112th Congress began: She officially launched the conservative Tea Party Caucus and offered her own response to the State of the Union.
“I think there are a lot of people in the leadership that wish she would step back so the Republican Party can put up a face that appeals to moderate and independent voters, and she does none of that,” one Republican operative said. “She has a segment of the Republican Party or the tea party that’s staunchly anti-government, anti-spending, anti-tax. There is no middle appeal with her, and I think there’s a great deal of concern that the Republican Party is going to be branded as the party of Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann.”
Bachmann has a fresh following in Congress: Many of the freshmen ran on the very tea party platform she espouses. Yet she has nothing more than a casual relationship with the GOP leadership team.
Bachmann spokesman Doug Sachtleben maintained his boss and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) “have a very good relationship.” And in a statement, Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said “Rep. Bachmann is a valuable Member of the House Republican Conference — she brings a unique enthusiasm and perspective.”
Rep. Steve King said he has not noticed leadership trying to silence Bachmann, a close ally. Instead, the Iowa Republican suggested that her national profile helps boost the party’s message and should be embraced by Congressional leaders.
“I think her message supplements that of the Republican Conference and they should be glad that her voice is there,” King said during a brief interview. “Now that she has a national support base out there, she has increased her political influence substantially. I would think her name recognition would be right up there with John Boehner’s.”
Bachmann, first elected in 2006, has never been a quiet player in Congress. She made headlines during the 2008 presidential cycle when she suggested then-candidate Barack Obama held “anti-American” views.
She also made news after she led a campaign against the controversial community organizing group ACORN, criticized the U.S. census and started developing the tea party platform.
Bachmann seems comfortable in her role, and she made no apologies for her State of the Union response, which was widely panned outside the halls of Congress. But even under the Dome, Bachmann’s appearance won some jeers.
Freshman Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), a member of the Tea Party Caucus, said the rebuttal was “a distraction” from the official response given by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).