[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/07/20/art.bachmann.gi2.jpg caption ="Rep. Michele Bachmann proposed and pushed for the creation of a Tea Party caucus."] Washington (CNN) - One day before the first official meeting of the Tea Party caucus in the House of Representatives, the big question on Capitol Hill which Republicans will join the new caucus?
Rep. Michele Bachmann proposed and pushed for the caucus. The 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.
Bachmann tells CNN that she's invited "a number of members" to come to the group's first meeting, which will be held prior to a news conference to premiere the caucus.
But she says she already has a big name on board.
"The very first member to join the Tea Party caucus was Mike Pence who's the Republican Conference chair. That's a pretty big endorsement," says Bachmann.
Pence, a five term congressman from Indiana who may make a bid for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, tells CNN that "having spoken at the 9/12 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."
Also signing up (at the time of this article's posting) are Republican congressmen Paul Broun of Georgia, Dan Burton of Indiana, John Carter of Texas, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, and Todd Tiahrt of Kansas.
Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said Tuesday that he's already joined the caucus as well. At a news conference with reporters, Sessions defended 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 said, adding she doesn't feel Cantor is rejecting the caucus either.
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," says Bachmann. "We're not about any political party – it's about listening to the American people."