The first ever meeting of the Senate Tea Party Caucus was convened yesterday on Capitol Hill and it was a great success. The left wing media is doing everything they can to demonize the Tea Party movement. It is not going to work.
The Heritage Foundation sent a camera and here is a video of the proceedings for those who could not make the first meeting which was open to the public.
Here is the opening paragraph of the Washington Post story today.
The Republican senators who rode the tea party wave to victory in the fall are now weighing whether that label will help them on Capitol Hill or become a scarlet letter.
Why would being a member of the Tea Party be a “scarlet letter?” I think Tea Party members agree that there is infighting between the major Tea Party groups, but the Tea Party movement is unified by an ideology. All Tea Party groups want to shrink the size and scope of the federal government.
The Washington Post reported that three Senators elected by the Tea Party movement have yet to join the caucus.
Thursday offered the first clear illustration of their situation as the newly formed Senate Tea Party Caucus held its inaugural meeting without three of the senators who won election under the tea party banner.
Those three are Senators Ron Johnson (R-WI), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Pat Toomey (R-PA). That should not be an indication that there is a boycott by conservatives of the Tea Party Caucus. It is an indication that these members are more cautious and not ready to embrace the idea of a Tea Party Caucus just yet. These members should be judged on the basis of whether they support the Tea Party agenda. Don’t let the liberal Washington Post create a schism between the Tea Party Caucus and these more cautious members of the conservative movement.
I was at the meeting and had an opportunity to see Senator Pat Toomey watching the speeches. It can be said that Senator Toomey was in attendance at the meeting, so one should not be worried about a boycott of the meeting by Senator Toomey. You might get the impression from the Washington Post that Toomey, Rubio and Johnson were boycotting and will never join.
I get the impression that the lack of participation by other Senators is due to the fact that this is a first meeting and the Tea Party Caucus has not had time to build membership or an agenda for the year. I would more so attribute the lack of participation by other members to early growing pains, rather than to say that the 45 Republicans who are not a member of the Caucus yet are boycotting the organization. It takes time to build political institutions.
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) said at the meeting that the Tea Party movement has co-opted Congress.
Some said when people who came from the Tea Party were elected that Washington would co-opt us. Are we going to let that happen? The interesting thing is I think we’re already co-opting Washington. Before we were even sworn in, the Republican caucus got together – and this isn’t my thanks, this is thanks to Senator DeMint who’s been working on this for years – they for swore and said no more earmarks. Now, are they going to co-opt us? I went to my first State of the Union the other day and guess who now is against earmarks? The President of the United States has been co-opted by the Tea Party.
Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) said talked about how Senators will listen, at least Senators DeMint, Paul and Lee, to the Tea Party movement.
The seats that we sit in every day in the senate are not ours, they’re yours, and they were lent to us to speak for you here and we want to make sure that as we try to represent the constitution, our oath of office, and you, that we listen to you.
Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) said that he is part of an organically grown movement without leaders.
None of us; neither Senator DeMint, Senator Paul, nor I, purports to speak for the Tea Party movement. The movement is what it is, far from a party or from any single organization. It is an organically grown, spontaneous, nation wide, grassroots, political phenomenon. The media has chosen to give us the name of “Tea Party”, and that is a quick shorthand reference to refer to something much broader. What we really feel is the need to stride towards something that I refer to as constitutionally limited government.
The first meeting of the Senate Tea Party Caucus was a success. Maybe Senators Johnson, Rubio and Toomey will formally join at some future date — maybe not. It really does not matter. What does matter is that Senators Paul, Lee and DeMint are showing that they will be the tip of the spear in the Senate for the Tea Party movement. Paul, Lee and DeMint will be carrying the ideas for the Tea Party into the Senate and Senators will either support or oppose the Tea Party agenda.