Michele Bachmann’s last stand

MinnPost photo by Devin Henry
Rep. Michele Bachmann rallies a crowd against President Obama's immigration executive action outside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.

WASHINGTON — There were Gadsden flags and a tricorn hat or two on Wednesday when Rep. Michele Bachmann took the mic before a small but vocal crowd on the East Front of the U.S. Capitol.

Bachmann and a handful of Tea Party lawmakers were there to rally against both President Obama and some members of their own party. Republican leadership had begun detailing a plan to symbolically rebuff Obama’s executive action on immigration while still funding the government into next year, when they’ll have bigger margins in Congress and more leverage to take him on.

But Bachmann, with her retirement from Congress imminent, won’t be around for that fight. And so she has again sided with congressional conservatives who want Republican leaders to go even further, right now: fund the government, yes, but not the departments charged with the executing Obama’s immigration orders. Stand your ground here, rather than next spring.

It looks like a long shot — Republican leaders are ready to move forward with their plan next week, and reportedly have contingencies in place to head off objections from within the caucus. But conservatives are doing what they can to rally the opposition for an upset.

“Will we be a people that decide we’re going to go with the freight train of what Washington, D.C. wants, or will we listen and hearken to the voice of the American people that was stated unmistakably on Nov. 4?” Bachmann said at the rally. “I am here today, as part of this coalition, to do the bidding of the American people, not the bidding of a lawless president.”

This is Michele Bachmann in the twilight of her congressional career: not fading out or going away quietly, but rather once again leading the charge against what she considers “lawlessness” from the president. Today’s battle is over immigration, but it’s only the latest grievance Bachmann has against the Obama White House. Her allies — on Wednesday, they were Texas firebrand Sen. Ted Cruz and Iowa Rep. Steve King, among others — will carry on after she’s gone next month. But Bachmann’s time is running short, and she’s making the most of what she has left.

“This is our opportunity to fight, and we need to fight now,” she said. “For us to fund an unconstitutional action now and say we’re going to fight later seems a little illogical to me. It seems that we shouldn’t give him the money now to do what he wants to do.”

Not going quietly

Bachmann announced her retirement in May 2013, but she said she had no plans of coasting to an easy retirement.

“When I made my decision early on this term to not run or seek another office, I also said I was going to run through the tape, I was going to keep running hard right through the end,” she said in an interview.

The last six years of Bachmann’s eight-year congressional tenure will be marked in no small part by her clashes with the Obama administration, so it follows that she would spend so much of her final term keeping up the fight.

Early on in the Obama era, she rallied the nascent Tea Party against his health care reform bill, and she pushed Congress to repeal it after it became law. She sought to challenge Obama in the 2012 presidential election. This summer, when House Republicans voted to sue the president for taking executive actions on the health care law’s implementation, she advocated a different, more aggressive strategy: rather than sue him, she proposed impeaching lower-level officials and defunding portions of the government.

“It was one thing when the president said, I’m not going to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act, and then he said, I’m not going to enforce this law, I’m not going to enforce that law,” she said. “The first couple of times people listened to it, but they didn’t know how to react.”

Immigration is the current fight

Now, Bachmann’s opposition to Obama has manifested itself in her battle against immigration reform — a key Democratic priority — and especially the president’s executive actions. She says November’s elections were a referendum on Obama’s agenda, and Congress should heed voters’ message: according to Bachmann, a strong “no” on Obama’s immigration plans.

“I think the voters were pretty decisive on Nov. 4. They’re concerned about Obamacare, they’re also very concerned and nervous about the president issuing executive amnesty,” she said. “No question it was a big issue, because Obama had said he was going to do this after the election. … I think that the mandate was delivered on Nov. 4, and that mandate is a rejection of the president’s policies.”

Her opposition to so-called “comprehensive immigration reform” dates back longer than that, of course. Roy Beck, the president of NumbersUSA, a group dedicated to reducing all immigration, both legal and illegal, said he remembers her work with other House conservatives to oppose a Senate-passed immigration reform bill last summer.

“Right now, this is her final hurrah, a lot of people after that final election, in the lame duck, would be coasting on the way out,” he said. “Instead, she’s in the middle of the biggest fights of her life.”

King, an Iowa conservative and long-time Bachmann friend and ally, has been by her side for much of the immigration fight. Bachmann and King took two trips to the southern border this year — before and after Obama’s November executive action — to prove a point about lackluster enforcement there. In August, the pair teamed up to push Republican leaders toward a stronger border security bill than they had originally proposed.

“What you get out of her is a lot of energy, you get spark, you get ideas, you get conviction and you get action,” he said. “Whenever there’s a catalyst in her that sees she needs to act, that’s when she does.”

Fighting Republicans as well

Bachmann, King and House conservatives often find themselves fighting not just Obama but their own leadership.

Very few Republicans support Obama’s maneuvering on immigration, but much of the GOP conference seems willing to wait to tackle the issue until next year when they have control of the Senate and a stronger majority in the House. On Tuesday, House Speaker John Boehner said he doesn’t expect to change his plan before members vote on it next week, before adjourning for the holidays.

“There are a lot of options on the table and I’m not going to get into hypotheticals of what we could or couldn’t do [in 2015],” he said at a press conference. “But I do know this: Come January, we’ll have a Republican House and a Republican Senate and we’ll be in a much stronger position to take actions.”

Even so, Bachmann said she thinks there’s a “critical mass” of conservatives willing to vote against that plan and complicate matters for leadership (who could, of course, still look to Democrats for votes if needed).

“We’ll find out if there are or not, but I feel like there’s a number of people who feel like I do who just aren’t going to give the president the money,” she said.

Bachmann: Listen to voters

Depending on whom you ask, a conservative immigration victory can be an abstract concept. Beck said they have already won by blocking comprehensive reform. King said it will take a change in president to move in the right direction. Bachmann said Republicans “need to be on the safest ground,” which is listening to voters and opposing executive overreach.

“I really respect the sovereign choice of the consumer and the sovereign choice of the citizen,” she said. “I honestly think they know how to lead their lives better than a couple of elites here in Washington, D.C.”

That’s a belief fundamental to the conservative cause Bachmann has pushed during her tenure in Congress. She said she doesn’t intend to leave that movement behind when she’s done in Washington, even if she won’t have the platform, or the vote, she’s had for the past eight years.

Congressional conservatives are preparing for the post-Bachmann days, too.

“The fights are going to go forward,” King said. “Certainly they’re going to have a different tone and a different character to them.”

Devin Henry can be reached at dhenry@minnpost.com. Follow him on Twitter: @dhenry

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Comments (15)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 12/05/2014 - 10:28 am.

    The most important thing

    …is that it’s her “last stand.” Soon, we’ll have to get used to a whole new brand of factually-challenged rhetoric from the 6th District’s respresentative. With luck, that “factually-challenged” part will be less a part of the picture, but I doubt it will disappear entirely.

  2. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 12/05/2014 - 02:03 pm.

    Oddly enough

    the rest of the conservatives are happy to see her exit as well. Tiny little bit by tiny little bit we are getting back to some degree of conservative sensibility. Trent Lott, unfortunately no longer in office, even suggested the two parties start to negotiate again, like they used to. Not sure why they see the light only after they leave office.

  3. Submitted by Daniel Shaw on 12/05/2014 - 05:23 pm.

    Michele Bachman’s Last Stand

    Michele Bachman’s battle over the past few months, indeed during her congressional career, has been less one against the Obama Administration than against reason. In appealing to the furthest reaches of the fringe Right, she has steadily marched herself into obscurity. Reports were that the “crowd” supporting her at the rally numbered about 40.

  4. Submitted by Mike Downing on 12/05/2014 - 07:58 pm.

    Apology from Star Tribune?

    The Star Tribune laughed at Rep Bachman’s prediction that gas prices would hit $2.50/gallon due to the U.S. energy boom. Will the Star Tribune and MinnPost commenters apologize to Rep. Bachman now that her prediction has come to pass?

    • Submitted by Pavel Yankovic on 12/06/2014 - 07:49 am.

      No.

      But if they were to respond it would be a sarcastic one to the effect that “a broken clock is right twice a day” or the like.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 12/07/2014 - 04:51 pm.

      No

      Because that isn’t what she said. Her prediction was that under “President Bachmann,” we would see gas go under $2 per gallon.

      I guess we’ll never know, will we?

      • Submitted by Dan Landherr on 12/08/2014 - 12:33 pm.

        With the implication that gas prices wouldn’t fall under Obama

        But they have, which actually contradicts her argument

    • Submitted by Tom Anderson on 12/07/2014 - 08:03 pm.

      I’m guessing no

      You beat me to the comment. The “crazy woman” was right and in spite of the President’s best efforts, U.S. oil production increases have indeed provided gas prices at under $2.00 a gallon. Admit it folks, this prediction is way more than a “broken clock”. Why is it so hard to admit that you were wrong?

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 12/08/2014 - 09:35 am.

        Tick-tock

        According to AAA, the average gas price in the US today is $2.668/gallon. In Minnesota, the average is $2.531/gallon. While these prices are lower than they have been in awhile, they are a long way from “under $2.00 a gallon.”

        You don’t suppose falling demand here and abroad had anything to do with this, do you? How about normal seasonal fluctuations in price?

    • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 12/10/2014 - 03:12 pm.

      Considering she never actually said that, as has been enumerated below, no apology is necessary. You’re also ignoring a lot of other factors- slowing growth in Asia has put a crimp in demand, no growth in Europe has hurt demand, Japan’s recession has hurt demand, US drivers are driving less… etc. Yes, shale-oil production in the US has put a dent in that, but so has the increased oil production in Iraq and Libya. Renewable energy sources are close to achieving price parity as well. These indeed are all factors, as was Saudi Arabia’s decision to NOT cut oil production in an effort to (ostensibly) weaken the Russian gas sector.

      Long story short, issues like oil prices involve a lot of different moving components, so a bit of nuance, and research, is required when talking about this topic. Nuance, of course, being something Michele Bachmann lacks.

  5. Submitted by Pavel Yankovic on 12/05/2014 - 08:18 pm.

    At least…

    she didn’t decide to be a career politician like her opponents are.

    • Submitted by Tom Christensen on 12/06/2014 - 09:25 am.

      She didn’t make the decision.

      The voters decided that for her. She’ll forever be in search of a spot light.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 12/07/2014 - 04:47 pm.

      What is she?

      If she is not a “career politician,” what is she? How long did she serve in the Minnesota Legislature? Add that to her time in Congress–how long has she been an elected official? Apart from her brief stint as an attorney, has she ever worked outside of elective office? Has she ever worked in the hallowed private sector?

      Do you really think she is going to do anything productive now? She will turn her national fame into a gig bloviating on political affairs from some right-wing propaganda outlet. She may not be a “career politician,” but she is certainly a card-carrying member of the political class.

  6. Submitted by Dennis Litfin on 12/06/2014 - 09:25 am.

    Michelle…..

    Once again, ‘Don’t let the door hit………..Oh, that’s right, you have heard that one several times recently. Sorry.

  7. Submitted by Dave Gorak on 12/09/2014 - 09:53 am.

    Immigration

    It’s refreshing to see a Member of Congress defend the rule of law, our national sovereignty and support enforcement of immigration laws created to protect American workers because you won’t find any support for all three from the nation’s media

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