Visions of the Republican Party literally crossed paths in the Capitol Rotunda on Tuesday evening.
On one side, current and former lawmakers gathered in Statuary Hall to fete former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole. On the other, members and senators gathered with the party's conservative base to discuss the legislative agenda for the future.
The irony wasn't lost on the tea party organizers, including Scottie Hughes of TPNN.com.
"Within a few feet of each other, under the same roof of the U.S. Capitol, there were two differing visions for Republicans, one for the future and the other rooted in the past. The fact that we had an overflowing room with dozens of Senators and members says a lot about the future of the tea party and conservatism," Hughes said. "Bob Dole may not like the fact we're around and vibrant, but we are here and here to stay."
In an interview earlier this week with CNN, Dole lamented the unwillingness of some senators to compromise, particular Senate newcomers.
"A lot of the younger members — they are very smart. They are very capable. They have their own ideas — start a filibuster, rather than compromise," Dole said.
Dole's 90th birthday was Monday, 774 motions to invoke cloture after he left the Senate. The crowd of former senators in attendance at the Dole event tells the story of a bygone Senate era. The crowd included the likes of Republicans Pete V. Domenici of New Mexico and John Warner of Virginia, and Democrats such as Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut and Tom Daschle of South Dakota.
The visual contrast wasn't apparent to everyone. Asked about the apparent dichotomy, Rep. Michele Bachmann said she didn't think that was the case.
"Oh no, no, no, no. Not at all. It's just that we always have competing events that we have to go to," the Minnesota Republican said.
At one point, Reps. Paul Broun of Georgia and Trent Franks of Arizona crossed through the Rotunda at the same time as Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., an old school appropriator. Leaving the tea party gathering for House votes, Broun said support for repealing the health care overhaul was a recurring theme.
"Obamacare today is destroying jobs and our economy, and we must get rid of it," Broun said. "We must repeal Obamacare, and that's the bottom line. We must defund it. We're going to have one shot to do so, and that's in the continuing resolution, and I will not vote for a continuing resolution that continues to fund Obamacare."
Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah were also among those discussing the move to defund the health care law, including by opposing a continuing resolution that provides funds for the law past Sept. 30.
"Under no circumstance will I vote for continuing resolution that funds 1 penny of Obamacare #DefundObamacare," Cruz Tweeted, along with the photo from inside the room named for former Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., that appears at the top of this post.
At least one guest attended both the Dole event and the tea party event — Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who has gotten into repeated debates with tea-party-backed senators about style and substance.
"We talked a lot about, about immigration, and my trying to explain to them why I think it is legislation that deserves their consideration," McCain said. "They responded very polite to me. Maybe it was because of my age and senility."
Hughes said that Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., was upfront in addressing the crowd that they could differ on the immigration issue, but he spent most of his time discussing the continuing resolution.
"He, along with the others have to find that issue is going to unify the base, and the tea party, back behind him," Hughes said. "If he leads the fight to defund Obamacare, and, and stopping the CR, I guarantee he might get a little ounce of forgiveness."
Franks said the standing-room-only meeting was "very interesting" and that the only legislation that he heard "expounded upon specifically" was a bill that would allow citizens to record phone calls with government officials.
"I guess I could say that in that room, if you wanted to try to analyze the problems that were expounded, you could say it one word, and probably also say it in two words. In one word, it would be ‘Obama.’ In two words, it would be ‘Barack Obama,'" said Franks.