Texas looms large in new Tea Party Caucus
Central texas reps. Carter, smith among caucus’ charter members
WASHINGTON— The newly formed House Tea Party Caucus, with the Texas congressional delegation making up the largest unit in the group, launched a volley of criticism at Democrats after its inaugural meeting Wednesday.
Seven Republican members of the 32-member Texas congressional delegation have signed up for the caucus: Reps. John Carter, Lamar Smith, Pete Sessions, John Culberson, Joe Barton, Michael Burgess and Louie Gohmert.
While 28 Republicans have joined the House caucus, no Democrats have enlisted.
“The left is doing everything in their power to demonize and marginalize the tea party movement because they are so terrified of it,” said Carter, RRound Rock.
Culberson told a news conference after the group’s first meeting that he was encouraged by people who have independently formed tea party groups across the United States. “It gives me great hope to see the spontaneous creation of the tea parties all across the country,” he said.
He said he thought the Democratic agenda had stirred some previously uninvolved conservatives to action. “Nan- House Tea Party Caucus leader Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., center, introduces the newly formed group Wednesday on Capitol Hill. Texas lawmakers make up 25 percent of the caucus’ members. cy Pelosi and Barack Obama have awakened the sleeping giant,” he said.
Gohmert said the tea party movement was an attempt to change the policies of both political parties. “This is an important movement to try to get both parties back on track,” he said.
Rep. Michele Bachmann, RMinn., said she organized the group because she thinks Congress is ignoring the concerns of tea party members, such as their view that the national legislature has overstepped its constitutional boundaries.
“Congress is not listening to those people,” she said. The role of the caucus, Bachmann said, is “to listen to the concerns of those people.”
The broader tea party movement was originally fueled by anger during the long national debate about health care reform. Tea party-supported candidates have toppled longtime incumbents in primary elections earlier this year, including Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah.
Rep. Ron Paul, R-Lake Jackson, an early icon of the tea party movement, hasn’t enlisted in the new House Tea Party Caucus. Rachel Mills, his spokeswoman, declined to comment when asked if Paul would eventually join.
Bachmann, who received permission from Pelosi and other Democratic members of the House leadership to form the caucus, said she had invited Pelosi to join the group.
Three members of the Republican leadership have joined the House caucus. Ses- sions chairs the National Republican Congressional Committee, the campaign arm of House Republicans, and Carter is the secretary of the House Republican Conference.
The chairman of that body, Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., also agreed to participate.
However, House GOP leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said he won’t join because he doesn’t join any groups besides the House Republican Conference.
A tea party activist, Army veteran Danielle Hollars, joined the caucus’ news conference and told reporters that the tea party wasn’t racist.
“We’re not terrorists. We’re not racists,” said Hollars, who is black. “We are Americans who care about the future of our country.”