WASHINGTON — Rep. Michele Bachmann, the darling of the Tea Party Right, will be unveiled Wednesday morning as the official head of the movement in Congress when she announces the founding members of the House Tea Party Caucus.
The question circling throughout the House today: Who will be standing there with her?
As of about 1 p.m. Central, 10 House Republicans had joined the caucus (plus Bachmann makes 11), Bachmann’s office confirmed. Many more have expressed their intention to join, spokesman Dave Dziok said, and are expected to join by the end of the day.
The list includes several high-ranking Republicans: Conference Chairman Mike Pence; Pete Hoekstra, the ranking member on the Select Committee on Intelligence who is running for governor of Michigan; and Pete Sessions, who as head of the NRCC is the man responsible for recruiting and aiding Republicans running for Congress.
Others on this list so far: Steve King of Iowa, Paul Broun of Georgia, Todd Tiahrt of Kansas, John Carter of Texas, Cliff Stearns of Florida, Dan Burton of Indiana and John Culberson of Texas.
So far, no Democrat has joined.
But the speculation in Washington surrounds the other Republican leaders whose names aren’t yet on that list. The difficulty, as several national outlets have noted, is that GOP leaders have been content to cheer the Tea Party from afar but have balked at doing so officially, for fear of being conjoined with some of the most extreme segments of it.
Never was that cheering more obvious than during the health care debate, when many Republicans found Tea Party protesters outside the Speaker’s Lobby balcony off the House Floor. There, they waved to the crowd, clapped, cheered, pumped their fists and led chants of “USA! USA! USA!”
Now, they’re being asked to get off the balcony and step into the crowd. And some leaders are balking at doing just that.
Minority Leader John Boehner will not join, but his office has explained to several media outlets that he doesn’t join any caucuses as a matter of practice.
Republican Whip Eric Cantor is also a no, he told Politico:
“I met with several of groups that operated under that moniker in Virginia; they’re not all uniform,” Cantor said in his third-floor Capitol office. “That’s part of the beauty of the tea party movement; it’s organic. And it’s certainly not Washington. So I think it’s better left with the people.
The full roster will be unveiled Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. Central.