By ALAN BLINDER
The anti-establishment tea party movement, which has worked to topple out-of-touch incumbents, now has a voice in the U.S. House: a fully sanctioned congressional caucus with seven Texas Republicans among its members. The 28-member House Tea Party Caucus includes no Democrats from Texas, or any other state for that matter. In its inaugural meeting Wednesday, the group hurled a volley of criticism at Democrats. Texans are its largest contingent, with John Culberson, John Carter, Pete Sessions, Lamar Smith, Joe Barton, Michael Burgess and Louie Gohmert signed up so far. Culberson said at a news conference after the group's first meeting that he was encouraged by people who have independently formed tea party groups around 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. "Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama have awakened the sleeping giant," he said. Gohmert said the tea party 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, R-Minn., 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. Rand Paul, son of Rep. Ron Paul, R-Lake Jackson, won the Republican senatorial nomination in Kentucky earlier this year with the support of the tea party movement. Ron Paul, an early icon of the movement, hasn't enlisted in the new House Tea Party Caucus. Rachel Mills, his spokeswoman, declined to comment when asked if he eventually will join. Bachmann, who received permission from Pelosi and other Democratic members of the House leadership to form the caucus, said she has invited Pelosi to join the group. A spokesman for Pelosi, Brendan Daly, later declined to comment.
3 GOP leaders join
Three members of the Republican leadership have joined the House caucus. Sessions, of Dallas, chairs the National Republican Congres- sional Committee, the campaign arm of House Republicans, and Carter, of central Texas, is the secretary of the House Republican Conference.The chairman of that body, Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., also agreed to participate. However, House Republican Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said he will not join because he does not join any groups besides the House Republican Conference. A tea party activist, Army veteran Danielle Hollars, joined the rollout news conference of the House caucus and told reporters that the tea party isn'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."