Last month, House Republicans officially embraced the Tea Party movement when Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) won approval from House leaders to form a Tea Party Caucus. Bachmann, who is caucus chair, said the group “will serve as an informal group of Members dedicated to promote American’s call for fiscal responsibility, adherence to the Constitution, and limited government.”
Despite the fact that the movement is overwhelmingly conservative, many Tea Party leaders have boasted that they do not adhere to a particular political party. But last night on Fox News, Bachmann not only said that the movement needs GOP leadership, but went a step further and called on the Tea Party to unite with the Republican Party:
SEAN HANNITY: Are you confident the Republican Party is adopting the Tea Party, you know, coalition, platform that you and other conservatives are advocating? Or is there going to be a divide or split in any way?
BACHMANN: Well, I think that unity is what we’re all looking forward to this fall. But I think the patience of the American people is very thin. They are looking to the GOP right now for leadership quite frankly. … We’d be foolish not to adopt the Tea Party mainstream America agenda.
Dozens of House Republicans — and even GOP leaders such as Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) — have signed on to Bachmann’s caucus. But the Minnesota congresswoman’s call for the GOP and the Tea Party to join forces may have the opposite effect. Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) has already said he opposes Bachmann’s caucus, saying the movement should be kept “outside of Washington.” And Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) doesn’t want any part of it either. “I’m 100 percent pro-tea party, but this is not the right thing to do,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT)
Even prominent Tea Party leaders have scoffed at the House caucus and the idea of joining the GOP:
“I do not particularly like the very ones who need to be held accountable to be co-opting the tea party brand,” wrote the well-regarded tea party blogger Melissa Clouthier. “Ultimately, I worry it destroys the tea party — which started out as a nonpartisan group.” [...]
“There was skepticism that this was possibly a move to speak for the tea party or to take advantage of the tea party,” said Mark Meckler, a national coordinator for Tea Party Patriots, which includes more than 2,500 local tea party groups.
“It is important that people realize that they do not speak on behalf of the movement,” said Tea Party Express chairwoman Amy Kremer.