“Guess what, Nancy Pelosi? I’m not going anywhere,” Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., told the more than 100 people gathered at her private farewell event Wednesday evening.
Where exactly she is going is still a mystery. But Bachmann will be leaving the House at the end of the 113th Congress, having announced her retirement in May 2013. But on Wednesday night, a sense that the Minnesota Republican would not fade from public life permeated the tributes and discussions among the guests packed into the National Republican Club of Capitol Hill’s Eisenhower Room.
“It was wall to wall people,” one attendee told CQ Roll Call, who also said the guests enjoyed mini crab cakes and other finger foods and some drinks from the bar. The attendee spoke on the condition of anonymity because the event was closed to the press. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., joined the lawmakers, staffers and conservatives who gathered to toast Bachmann.
“He said that, as missed as Michele will be in Congress, and as much as an inspiration as she was to him … she’s going to remain a coveted part of public life and we look forward to continuing to work with her,” the attendee said.
Scalise was the only member of House Republican leadership at the event, though Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, reportedly sent a staff member on his behalf.
Other lawmakers spotted at the event included GOP Reps. Dana Rohrabacher of California; Tim Huelskamp of Kansas; Raúl R. Labrador of Idaho; Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla. and Trent Franks of Arizona.
Franks introduced Bachmann in what the attendee described as a “heartfelt” speech that detailed “the impact that Michele Bachmann had on his conservatism.”
Earlier Wednesday, Franks told CQ Roll Call that Bachmann’s departure from Congress would leave a sizable void in the congressional tea party caucus, which Bachmann founded in 2010.
“Certainly the tea party influence is nominally and substantially diminished with her departure,” Franks said. He noted that the media will have difficulty defining the Tea Party Caucus position without its de facto spokeswoman.
“When you don’t have a voice like Michele Bachmann’s, who personifies all of the good things that the tea party has come to mean to America,” Franks said, “then it’s more difficult to have any sort of unified or representative message with the same profile in the media.”
Franks also could not think of which House Republican could take Bachmann’s place as the face of the caucus.
“Well, there’s no replacing her kind of leadership,” Franks said, later adding, “I’m just not sure who I would point to, which underscores my contention that her loss is a significant one.”
But a discussion of which lawmaker would be “the next Michele Bachmann” did not take place at the Capitol Hill Club celebration. “I think out of respect to her, there was not much talk of who steps into that void,” the event attendee said.
Politics, on the other hand, was the subject of many discussions Wednesday night. There were particularly optimistic discussions of the conservative prospects in the midterm elections and in policy battles after November.
The event was co-hosted by The Heritage Foundation and TheTeaParty.net. Ed Corrigan, the group vice president for policy promotion for Heritage, and Todd Cefaratti, the founder of TheTeaParty.net were both spotted in the Eisenhower Room.
The attendee said the mood in the room was upbeat, noting, “It was like it wasn’t an end, but a beginning for Michele.”
Although Bachmann has not indicated where she will land after leaving the Hill, she said she is sure to miss some aspects of being a lawmaker.
“I will miss the ability to have access to some of the incredible knowledge sources in the world,” Bachmann told CQ Roll Call Wednesday afternoon. “Another thing I’ll miss are the incredible people that we get to meet everyday.”
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