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Cravaack: Why I won’t be joining the Tea Party Caucus

Rep. Chip Cravaack tells MinnPost he won’t be joining the House Tea Party Caucus that Michele Bachmann founded, because “it kindof makes a bureaucracy out of the Tea Party movement and the Tea Party is grass roots.” 

WASHINGTON — When the roster of the House Tea Party Caucus came out recently, one Minnesota lawmaker whose election has been credited in part to the movement was absent from the list.

And despite professing an affinity for the movement, Chip Cravaack says he won’t be joining the caucus founded last year by his neighbor to the south, Michele Bachmann.

“The way I viewed it, it’s a grassroots effort. The Tea Party is self made, and there’s really no central organization, I just don’t think there needs to be one in Washington, D.C.,” Cravaack told MinnPost earlier this week.

“It kindof makes a bureaucracy out of the Tea Party movement and the Tea Party is grass roots. Those guys, they were the wind in the sails, they were the people who came out to the parades, you know, they were the people who cheered us on.”

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Cravaack’s logic has been used by several Republicans who are generally seen as affiliated with or sympathetic to the Tea Party movement. For example (as reported by POLITICO), Utah Republican Jason Chaffetz said nearly the same thing last year when the caucus formed.

“The more you try to put structure around the tea-party, the more compromised it will become,” Chaffetz said in a tweet. “If any one person(s) tries to co-opt it, the Tea Party will lose its identity and effectiveness. Go Tea Party! But not with DC ‘leadership,’” he wrote.

Bachmann is the only Minnesotan in the House Tea Party Caucus, which currently has just under 50 members. When she formed the group, she said it would not be a “mouthpiece of the Tea Party” and did not seek to control it from Washington, but rather that the “people are the head of the Tea Party movement.”

When asked shortly after his election, Cravaack was undecided on joining the Tea Party Caucus. Here’s what he told MinnPost at the time:

“I haven’t decided that yet,” he replied. What does the decision depend on? “I have to decide that too,” he joked. But in all seriousness: “I don’t know enough about it yet, it’s something I have to research. I didn’t really start off as a Tea Party person, but their values line up with mine in a lot of ways.”

Cravaack hasn’t joined an ideological caucus, his office said. Reps. Michele Bachmann and John Kline are members of the conservative Republican Study Committee, whil Rep. Erik Paulsen is in the Republican Main Street Partnership, which I’d describe as fiscally just as conservative, but perhaps a bit more here-or-there on social issues.

However, he like many representatives is a member of several other issue-based caucuses. They are: General Aviation, National Guard, Steel, Sportsmans, Taiwan, Rural Health, Medical Technology, and Dairy.