New GOP Caucus Has Familiar Look and Feel

Tea Party Caucus Is Made of RSC Members

Posted July 21, 2010 at 6:38pm

Republican members of the new Tea Party Caucus on Tuesday committed themselves to promoting smaller government, lowering taxes and making sure Congress operates within its constitutional limits.

But this is not the first time these Members have joined a group dedicated to these principles. In fact, each member of the Tea Party Caucus is also part of the Republican Study Committee and several other task forces and caucuses focused on limited government.

Rep. Michele Bachmann, who created the caucus last week, acknowledged that there is some overlap with other groups, but the Minnesota Republican said her caucus will focus more on bringing average people into its meetings rather than fostering Member-to-Member conversations.

“The reason for this is for this phenomenon — this is an incredible phenomenon,” she said. “We wanted to demonstrate we are listening to people … and defining it by what the tea party people say their principles are, which are essentially, the federal government shouldn’t spend more than what it brings in.”

Bachmann added that tea party members say “they are taxed enough already. … Congress needs to act within their constitutional limitations.”

She said the other benefit to having the caucus outside of the RSC is that Democrats are free to join the cause.

“This is complementary to the RSC. This is not competition,” she said, adding that RSC Chairman Tom Price is a member of the new caucus.

[IMGCAP(1)]The Georgia Republican said anything that helps attract attention to the conservative cause is a positive.

“I applaud anything that brings attention to our fundamental principles,” he said.

Price said he didn’t see the creation of conservative caucuses outside of the RSC as a threat because of the group’s reputation as the “gold standard” for conservative thought.

“The RSC has been around since 1973. It’s got a history,” he said. “It has a broader scope of policy and member services and communications and coalition and all of those things that people have come to rely on.”

Former RSC Chairman Jeb Hensarling said, “I belong to a lot of caucuses. I seriously doubt that anything is going to replace the Republican Study Committee as the conservative voice in the United States House of Representatives.”

The Texas Republican, who had not joined the Tea Party Caucus as of Wednesday afternoon, added that the RSC has grown under Price’s leadership to include 115 Members.

But not all caucus members have seen that growth as a good thing.

Since Price took the helm, the conservative group has opened its doors to members of the moderate Tuesday group who don’t necessarily share the ideology of the party’s right wing.

Rep. Steve King said the expansion has spurred some Members to form other groups in order to sharpen their focus on conservative issues.

“I think that there’s a natural evolution that takes place within the caucuses in Congress,” the Iowa Republican said. “Some will start because they see a need and grow and become big and become broader, and then the broader their membership gets, the less ideological they are. So it’s natural that there would be other subgroups that would make up some of these issues in a more intense way.”

Price said there were two schools of thought when he took over the RSC last year: Increase its effectiveness by expanding its membership or only allow people who agree 100 percent with its core conservative principles.

Price chose the former; King said he preferred the latter.

“I’d rather have a more laser focus,” King said.

Hensarling said the RSC hasn’t outgrown its mission.

“I think the RSC has a greater impact on any one Member than any one Member has on the RSC,” he said. “I haven’t seen it, but I guess, theoretically, yeah, it could get too large. So far I’ve been very happy with the people that want to be a part of it.”

One Republican lawmaker, who requested anonymity, dismissed the formation of the Tea Party Caucus or any other headline-grabbing entity at this stage of the session as political grandstanding.

“We are in the funny season. This is the political season,” he said. Democrats “bring up their stuff because it makes them look good, we bring up our stuff because it makes us look good.”

Rep. Doug Lamborn, one of the founding members of the RSC’s 10th Amendment Task Force earlier this year, said that while the formation of these groups is healthy, there is always a question of longevity.

“Only time will tell if these have a lasting impact or whether they are a flash in the pan,” the Colorado Republican said.