While Republican leaders probably thought they had finally finished battling tea party insurgents for control of the party, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) — the far-right, conspiracy theorizing, tea party darling — indicated yesterday that she will run for the chairmanship of the House Republican Conference, the number three position in the House GOP. The race would pit Bachmann against the establishment pick, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), who has already been endorsed by the number two Republican, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA).
This summer, Bachmann hinted at a bid to overthrow the supposedly-moderate GOP leadership and replace them with true “constitutional conservatives.” Apparently acting on that plan, Bachmann announced this week that she wants to start a “Constitutional Conservative Caucus” to “stop any bill from passing” that she deems unconstitutional, such as “a stimulus or a government takeover of health care.” Bachmann touted the plan yesterday on the radio show of Fox News host Glenn Beck, who naturally loved it and told his listeners to “beg” their new members of Congress to join the caucus. Listen here:
This is actually the second grouping of far-right lawmakers Bachmann has assembled in the last few months. In July, Bachmann formed an official Tea Party Caucus to promote “fiscal responsibility, adherence to the Constitution, and limited government.” While the two caucuses appear to espouse identical philosophies, Bachmann attempted to explain the difference between the two to Beck, saying, “this is a little bit broader of a caucus.” She added that the new group’s “purpose” is to bring in freshmen Republican lawmakers, “because quite quickly, within a mater of two months, these people can be co-opted into the Washington system.” It’s unclear why the Tea Party Caucus couldn’t serve that same role, but she added that the new caucus would attempt to bring in legal experts, including conservative Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, to teach classes every week.
Ironically, while the Tea Party Caucus attracted an immense amount of media attention, “many tea party activists see it as yet another effort by the GOP to hijack their movement” for personal and political gain. Even some of Bachmann’s tea party-aligned colleagues condemned the idea, with Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) telling Poltico, “I’m 100 percent pro-tea party, but this is not the right thing to do.” The caucus doesn’t appear to have accomplished much in the months since it formed. Meanwhile, Chaffetz, who was considering a run for Conference chariman himself, has dropped out and has thrown his support behind Hensarling.
In a scathing editorial published last month, Bachmann’s hometown St. Cloud Times slammed the congresswoman for making her constituents “essentially her last priority,” and instead “mix[ing] equal parts of fear and blame that raise your personal profile yet yield only sound bites, not solutions.” Indeed, this second Bachmann-led right-wing caucus, conspicuously timed with her bid for the GOP leadership, appears to be little more than another attempt at self-promotion.