Washington (CNN) - The founder of a new Tea Party caucus in the House of Representatives says her group's main mission is to listen to Tea Party activists concerns, but not to serve as a mouthpiece for the movement or to vouch for actions by Tea Party members.
"We decided to form a Tea Party caucus for one very important purpose: To listen to the concerns of the Tea Party," said Rep. Michele Bachmann, at a news conference Wednesday morning following the first meeting of the caucus.
"We are not the mouthpiece of the Tea Party. We are not taking the Tea Party and controlling it from Washington DC. I am not the head of the Tea Party."
"We are also not here to vouch for the Tea Party, or to vouch for any Tea Party organizations or vouch for any individual people or actions or billboards or signs or anything of the Tea Party. We are here to listen and to be a receptacle."
Bachmann said 24 representatives attended the first meeting. Twenty-eight Republican members of the House are listed as members of the caucus (see list below), including two high ranking members of the GOP House leadership, Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence and National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions.
Pence, a five term congressman from Indiana who may make a bid for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, told CNN Monday that "having spoken at the September 12th march on Washington, having spoken at Tea Party rallies, and the fact that I'm proud to be a Tea Party endorsed candidate for re-election, I was honored to join the Tea Party caucus."
Sessions, a seven term representative from Texas, Monday described the Tea Party movement as "sincere" and "serious."
Not joining are the two top House Republicans: Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio and Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia.
"It's Boehner's personal policy not be a member of any caucus other than the House Republican Conference," spokesman Michael Steel said in a statement.
Bachmann says she understands.
"Leader Boehner doesn't join any caucus other than the Republican Conference. That's his rule so that's certainly no repudiation," Bachmann told CNN on Monday, adding she doesn't feel Cantor is rejecting the caucus either.
Bachmann, a conservative congresswoman from Minnesota who's a favorite of many Tea Party activists, won approval for the new organization late last week from the Democratic leadership.
"We want to have a bigger earphone to listen to the people. We may possible meet next week," Bachmann told reporters. "Our goal is to continue an on-going dialogue, in real time."
Bachman added that she is renewing a call for allowance of House members to use Skype in their offices, which is currently banned. Bachmann said the online communication service would make it easier to talk with constituents and vice-versa.
The year and a half old Tea Party movement has infused a lot of energy and enthusiasm into the GOP, and the party, trying to recover from major election defeats in 2006 and 2008, has to a degree, embraced the movement. But the creation of the Tea Party caucus comes as the anti-tax and limited federal government movement faces its biggest controversy.
Sunday the National Tea Party Federation expelled one of the largest and best known national Tea Party groups, the Tea Party Express, and its spokesman Mark Williams. The Federation, a three month old organization that seeks to represent the Tea Party political movement around the country, acted following of an inflammatory blog post Williams wrote last week about the NAACP. Williams says he wrote the incendiary blog post in response to an NAACP resolution last week that called on Tea Party leaders to crack down on racist elements in the movement.
Tuesday House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer questioned how many Republicans would want to join the new caucus.
"We'll see how many Republicans join the Tea Party Caucus and see whether or not they want to adopt the tea party agenda," the number two Democrat in the House told reporters at a news conference.
The Maryland Democrat also repeated what he stated on the Sunday talk shows, saying he didn't think the Tea Party movement itself was racist, but said he's "seen some virulent racist tracks, which I believe are harmful to the public discourse."
Bachmann says she hopes her caucus will eventually become bipartisan in nature.
"The first letter I wrote about the Tea Party caucus was to speaker (Nancy) Pelosi to invite her to also become a part of the Tea Party caucus, so I'm hoping Democrats and Republicans will come together to become a part of this caucus," Bachmann told CNN.
CNN's Evan Glass, Jim Acosta, and Bonney Kapp contributed to this story
Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @psteinhausercnn
TEA PARTY CAUCUS MEMBERS
Michelle Bachman of Minnesota (founder of the caucus)
Todd Akin of Missouri
Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland
Joe Barton of Texas
Gus Bilirakis of Florida
Paul Broun of Georgia
Michael Burgess of Texas
Dan Burton of Indiana
John Carter of Texas (Republican Conference secretary)
John Culberson of Texas
John Fleming of Louisiana
Trent Franks of Arizona
Phil Gingrey of Georgia
Louie Gohmert of Texas
Peter Hoekstra of Michigan
Walter Jones of North Carolina
Steve King of Iowa
Doug Lamborn of Colorado
Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming
Gary Miller of California
Gerry Moran of Kansas
Mike Pence of Indiana (Republican Conference chairman)
Tom Price of Georgia
Pete Sessions of Texas (National Republican Congressional Committee chairman)
Lamar Smith of Texas
Cliff Stearns of Florida
Todd Tiahrt of Kansas
Joe Wilson of South Carolina
No matter how CNN trys to paint the picture that this a legitimate political organization. The American people realize that they flanked with a bunch of racist. We might not be vocal blogs, emails etc but we see and will be sure to make the polls this fall. Have a nice day.
No matter how CNN trys to paint the picture that this is a legitimate political organization. The American people realize that they are flanked with a bunch of racist. We might not be vocal on blogs, emails etc but we see and will be sure to make the polls this fall. Have a nice day.
While I don't have a problem with some of the platform issues that the Tea Party says that it represents I find it difficult to find a unified voice to listen to. Who is this caucus going to listen to? What platform issues are they going to support?
Bachmann is such a idiot.
A caucus for dead astroturf ? Delusional wingnuts who can't govern .
Good Job dividing the republican party
Two party can’t get along Now new Caucus
WHO does Michele Bachman think she's fooling with this garbage. The woman is the MOUTHPIECE of the Tea Party circus. Are we to believe anything this two-faced LIAR says?
Anyone who is buying her trash talk DESERVES everything the GOP dumps on them and then some.
You can certainly say that again. The Tea Party has not authorized you to speak for them or represent them in the House. We want no part of any incumbents. Our goal is to put you people out of office. Be you Republicans or Democrats. It is time to go. No more Kennedys or Byrds who hold on to offices for lifetimes while doing absolutely nothing but destroying the structure of the constitution.
LOL they will only listen and not be a mouth piece. She is a piece!!!!! FINALLY someone has given us a full list of those who participated/are participating!!!! HEY JOE (WILSON) YOU LIE!!!!!!!!
Bachmann shouldn't plan to far ahead because in a few months she will have to turn over leadership of the tea caucus when she and a few of the other Congressional wing nuts are booted out of Congress in November.
Frankly, I am so sick and tired of hearing about the tea party I could puke! They started out fighting against the Democrats and now they have taken on fighting amongst themselves! People such as Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, Mark Williams, only to name a few, have used up way too much of the news. And as if that wasn't enough, now Andrew Breitbart has been added to the mix. After listening to his interview with John King regarding the Shirley Sherrod video he posted, I couldn't believe how many times he stated "The tea party is not racist." I guess I must have been imagining things when I watched a good many tea party gatherings on the news that contained vile slurs against blacks, and particularly our President! Perhaps I digress since this article was about the new tea party caucus. However, this article just brings to mind how much disproportionate and unwarranted media has been given to this group of misfits!
Must have sounded like a good idea in your head. Now all of a sudden you have so many disclaimers. The fact is-you can't have it both ways. If you don' t want to be associated with the Tea Party-as you have been for months-then don't have them as the name of your caucus. Not even the Tea Party will let you be Tea Party in name only-so don't expect others to.
Michele is the "ULTIMATE MOUTHPIECE!" She has no brain.
Bachman is an idiot and all those Republicans who signed onto the Tea Party Caucas are idiots, also. They are only interested in bringing my President down. But, guess what? It ain't gonna happen!!!
She's a liar. She and Boner and Pence LED at least one of their mob meetings, and now claims they won't vouch for them. B. S.
She's a liar. I hope MN and OH wise up and see the hate-filled people they have running for office to control the future of this nation.
Do YOU want hate and fear and viciousness to be the example for YOUR kids of how to live their life??
She's a nut-case!
Bachman wants to have it both ways. She won't vouch for the tea party because of their racism but she wants their votes. Tea Party wake up you are being used for your votes. As soon as the Tea Party has no further use republicans will throw you under the bus or probably under the subway.
Basically, we want your votes but we're not going to be held accountable for you being a bunch of crazy people.
First off, I may not completely agree with the Tea Party movement, but I do respect some of their stances. I also believe that there is a large population who wrongly use the Tea Party negatively as an opportunity to preach hatred, such as Mark Williams and his ilk. That being said, Reps. Pence and Sessions joining the Tea Party caucus is ABSURD.
Isn't one of the biggest talking points of the Tea Party movement about term limits for those in Congress? Then why would Pence (5 terms) and Sessions (7 terms) be so quick to jump into this caucus?
The only way they cannot possibly be seen as hyprocrites is for them (and the other lifers who have joined this caucus) to propose a bill pushing for term limits and then resigning their posts, effective at the end of their current term.
But that won't happen. My assumption is that they are doing this because they feel the Republican name is so tarnished and this is a way to gain support from the Tea Party activists so that they can keep their jobs.
I'd love for them to prove me wrong. Term limits means term limits for EVERYONE, not just for those who you disagree with.
On another note, I'm not really surprised that Bachmann would be the one heading up this sort of thing. I've always had the feeling that she's more about herself than anyone else, and this is a prime way for her to get even more attention.