Senators convene first Tea Party Caucus meeting
Supporters applaud as the U.S. Senate Tea Party Caucus gathers for their first meeting January 27, 2011 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
January 27th, 2011
04:32 PM ET
11 years ago

Senators convene first Tea Party Caucus meeting

Washington (CNN) - Spirited Tea Party activists, confident they staggered the Washington establishment with their successes in the midterm elections, showed off their new found influence Thursday at the first meeting of the newly formed Senate Tea Party Caucus.

"You're not here as a tourist, not as a visitor, but as stockholders. You're here with us today because we want you to be the board of directors of what's going on here in the Congress," Sen. Jim DeMint, R-South Carolina, told the 150 or so activists - famous for being grass roots outsiders - who showed up at a stately Capitol Hill hearing room to exchange views with the senators who make up the caucus.

"The seats we sit in the Senate every day are not ours,' DeMint told them. "They're yours and they're lent to us to speak for you – and we want to make sure we try to represent the constitution, our oath of office, and you. That we listen to you."

"This caucus exists not for the purpose of speaking for or on behalf of any one organization or any one citizen. It serves instead as an effective forum for which you and other constitution-loving, freedom-embracing Americans can communicate your ideas to members of the United States Senate," newly elected Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said.

DeMint credited the Tea Party movement with playing a role in the election of every Republican in the Senate. And there are several new Republican senators who closely identify with the group.

Still, the Senate Tea Party Caucus only had three formal members when the day started – DeMint, Lee and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, who spoke to the group about the importance of passing on the freedom and liberties guaranteed in the constitution to future generations, told CNN after the event that he would become the fourth member.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, a Tea Party favorite, said in a statement he is reluctant to join the caucus. "If all of a sudden being in the Tea party is not something that is happening on main street, but rather something that is happening in Washington DC, the Tea Party all of a sudden becomes some sort of movement run by politicians and it's going to lose its effectiveness."

DeMint defended the value of having senators represent the organization.

"What we want to try and do is make them feel like they're part of what's going on, remind them that we are listening. We didn't just get elected and going to forget about them. Keep them engaged in the process. Cause the key to having a more successful 2012 that did in 2010 is keeping people involved in the process," he said.

The meeting was billed as an opportunity for the grass roots activists to question lawmakers and press them to keep their campaign promises to slash government spending and reduce the massive debt. However, most of the nearly two hour session in a hearing room in the Hart Senate Office Building was filled with speeches from senators and other Tea Party organizers and only a handful of questions were answered at the very end of the event.

Activists were able to speak directly to the senators before and after the meeting, which had a campaign atmosphere. Some used the time to take pictures and get autographs. Others pressed specific policy arguments.

"What's to prevent us from putting forth $1.5 trillion worth of cuts," Lisa Miller, a Tea Party activist from Washington DC, asked DeMint.

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania, who won cheers for his proposal for a balanced budget amendment, told the audience it may not be as catastrophic as they may have heard if Congress doesn’t vote to raise the U.S. debt ceiling, suggesting there are other ways to avoid defaulting. He has introduced legislation that he says prioritizes spending so that debts can be paid without raising the legal debt limit.

"I think the most irresponsible thing that we can do as a Congress, the least grown up thing we can do, is just to raise that debt ceiling and continue business as usual mounting these massive deficits and debt that we have been running up," he said.

Tea Party Express Chairman Amy Kremer told the senators that Tea Party activists would be watching to make sure they stand by the principles that earned them Tea Party support.

"Each of these senators have been supported and elected by the Tea Party activists because of their principles and values of fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government and free markets," she said. "We ask that they stand on those principles with us and not waver even when it might seem it's the easiest thing to do."

Mike Kibbe, president of the conservative FreedomWorks organization, told the activists it was time for the Tea Party movement "to transition from a protest movement into a serious legislative machine" in order to repeal and replace the health care reform law, balance the budget, curb the powers of Environmental Protection Agency and protect taxpayer dollars from being wasted by the International Monetary Fund.

Filed under: Senate • Tea Party Caucus • Tea Party movement
soundoff (35 Responses)
  1. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA - John "The Weeper of the House" Boehner

    If you are truly for deficit cuts, start by getting back that 400 billion dollar tax cut for the top 2%.

    January 27, 2011 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  2. Phil in KC

    Blah, blah, blah. They're rather full of themselves. They're just another brand of Republican, as far as I'm concerned. No less, no more.

    January 27, 2011 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  3. Grog

    I kinda thought Senator DeMint was hired by the people of South Carolina. Who is he really representing in the Senate?

    January 27, 2011 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  4. Don

    This is going to be funny. I want to see all these Tea Party Candidates cut taxes and keep their cities afloat. I guess NY found out the hard way. Get a grip. States and cities need money and it has to come from somewhere.

    January 27, 2011 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  5. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Stop legitimizing these nutjobs.
    They do not know the Constitution, as evidenced by how they TOTALLY ignored it's being TRAMPLED BEYOND RECOGNITION by the PREVIOUS administration.

    But THAT was perfectly okay with them, because it was 'one of their own' doing the trampling.

    January 27, 2011 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  6. Davey

    They want to caucus and have a voice of a third party without being considered an actual party. They shouldn't be able to have it both ways.

    January 27, 2011 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  7. Inmyopinion

    To be honest at least they are involved and doing something for our country, isn't that what President JFK said?????? Unlike so many who complain, demand, criticize, take advantage of our country and yet do nothing for our country.

    January 27, 2011 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  8. Sniffit

    How cute. The American Psychiatric Association better get working on an entire chapter devoted to these this clown car full of psycho-social's going to need to be added to the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. Just think...Bachman could be the next Anna O.

    I almost feel like we need to send in someone like Steve Irwin (god bless him) with a camera crew to observe the Teaturd Caucus in their natural habitat as they screech angrily at reality for disobeying their ideology and throw their demogoguery turds about like a gaggle of angry macaques. "No no,'s CAUCUS, not CACAS"

    January 27, 2011 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  9. LeftCoastMike

    Did they go out and lynch some Negroes after the meeting? Ronald Reagan wanted the Republican Party to be a big tent, welcoming all. These traitors want to turn it into a big white hood, with a burning cross to light the way, How apprpriate it should be DeMint, a guy from the ultimate traitorous, slave-trading state, SC, leading the way.

    January 27, 2011 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  10. ABM

    They will get a solid dose of reality soon enough – it's not about them.

    January 27, 2011 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  11. John G

    Two years ago the tea party was ridiculed and to a certain extent also ignored. We've come a long ways in just two short years. DEAL WITH US. You have no choice. Ha ha

    January 27, 2011 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  12. rusty155

    The Tea Party Is nothing but a bunch of crap. They work for the Koch Bros. who tell them how too vote. After all they didn't spend all that money out of their pocket for nothing. If the Republican party don't stand up too the Tea party ,the republican party loosing a lot of people to becoming Independent voter. I wouldn't vote for any back by the Tea Party. They choose people that are unqualified for any PUBLIC OFFICE they are running for so they won't have any trouble control their vote. The people of South Carolina hired Jim DeMint but he work for the Koch Bros. and the so call Tea party. Not to say they are Racist and they spread hate.

    January 27, 2011 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  13. Sniffit

    "What's to prevent us from putting forth $1.5 trillion worth of cuts," Lisa Miller, a Tea Party activist from Washington DC, asked DeMint." answer your question, let's start with "reality" and work up from there.

    January 27, 2011 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  14. NC

    Senator DeMint needs to help the education system in S. C. Stats were released this week for 4th. and 8th. graders for math and science. They are in the 20-30% Percentile, what a shame. Yes 2 years ago the tea party was ridiculed and they still are. Yes we have a choice and don't have to deal with the tea party because we are the true patriots

    January 27, 2011 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  15. anagram_kid

    “… Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, who spoke to the group about the importance of passing on the freedom and liberties guaranteed in the constitution…” Why doesn’t anyone remind these Tea Party folks that those freedoms and liberties were only guaranteed for people who were born of the white race and of the male gender?

    January 27, 2011 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  16. John G

    Even though the tea party uprising was started even before Obama took office the demcorats pushed and pushed and actually helped the tea party to grow with all their belittling and ridiculing. I'd like the thank the demcorats for helping the tea party out in this manner.


    January 27, 2011 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  17. Sniffit

    "Two years ago the tea party was ridiculed and to a certain extent also ignored"

    Ignored? Is the victim mentality THAT ingrained in your head? Seriously? CNN and the rest of the "news" media, particularlyl Faux, couldn't stop talking about you people and you're claiming to have been "ignored"? NOTHING could be further from the truth other than your nutty ideological tantrums. In fact, any rational mind out there would admit that the "liberal lamestream media" deserevs your thanks for shoving the Teaturds down everyones' throats incessantly for the past 2 years. They are the single biggest reason you've been able to grab ANY's been a non-stop stream of Teaturds this and Teaturds that...all without EVER putting ANYTHING you people yammer about to the test against facts, evidence, historical record, expert opinion, etc. By playing he-said-she-said and going no further, the "news" media gave you a free pass and yuo should be thanking them every day for continuing the mindless paradigm.

    January 27, 2011 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  18. PalmReader

    This caucus meeting ought to make Boehner weepier than ever. TeaPers are awfully full of themselves. All hot air - no substance. Oh, well. To each their own, I guess. They'll learn soon enough that it's their political donations, not their ideals that DeMint most treasures.

    January 27, 2011 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  19. AMERICA 1st

    Sarah Palin and the Tea Party in 2012!

    January 27, 2011 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  20. Vet in TX

    They are still what we thought they were. The real test will be in 2 years when the tax breaks end, the CBO has already said if they expire it will be a $500 billion deficit and unemployment will be at 8.2%. That will be when you really see what they are, instead of what the followers who've given them money say they are.

    January 27, 2011 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  21. Rickster

    Next on the agenda.......shoot down every penny that is spent on the Global Warming Fraud. If you have bought into the global warming scam, you're a gullible fool.

    "Himalayan glaciers are actually advancing rather than retreating, claims the first major study since a controversial UN report said they would be melted within quarter of a century."

    January 27, 2011 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  22. Patriot

    There is a choice to deal with the tea party. Ignore them...........forever.

    January 27, 2011 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  23. bender

    I'm not a big fan of Palin but the more I see she gets under the Liberals skin,I'm starting to like her.They act like she's finger nails on chalk board.They just lose their minds any time her name is mentioned.I love it!What the heck,GO PALIN!!!!!She couldn't be any worse than the idiot we have now!

    January 27, 2011 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  24. John - Ventura, Ca

    At this point anything is better than the status quo of the same old two party's. Voting in one or the other party over and over again is clearly insane. We needed the tea party actually.

    January 27, 2011 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  25. Sgt Schultz

    Go for it! Good luck with your fear-mongering, hate, lies, bigotry, succession and abolishment of Social Security. At least some Republicans are honest enough to ADMIT to wanting to eliminating SS, unlike the Tea Party caucus.

    January 27, 2011 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
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